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New Thompson training centre will turn unwanted electronics into low-cost computers and employment skills for interns

Computers For Schools opened its e-waste depot and training centre in Thompson Oct. 15.

A new facility in Thompson is now turning unwanted items into opportunities for young people and others.

Computers For Schools held the grand opening of its Northern Manitoba depot and training centre on Hayes Road in Thompson Oct. 15. The centre performs a double function, providing a place for people to drop off their old surplus electronics while training youth aged 15 to 30 for careers in the tech sector and elsewhere.

“Even if you think your device is old, it’s no longer working, it’s very likely that we’ll be able to take that device apart, we’ll be able to take out certain materials from it and we’ll be able to use those materials as a valuable resource for somebody in need,” said Computers For Schools executive director Justin Menard.

Accepted donations include everything from cell phones, laptops and printers to televisions and small kitchen appliances like hand mixers, though fridges and stoves are off the table.

“The shelves are very, very bare right now,” said Menard. “If you have surplus devices, please bring them by so we can fill up our shelves.”

Donations that aren’t suitable for refurbishment will be properly recycled while those that are will have their hard drives wiped and be prepared for further use.

That preparation is done by interns who receive technical training and general employment skills over the course of a few months. Two interns began their time with Computers For Schools in Thompson Oct. 18 and two more will begin in a few weeks, Menard said.

Anthony Leong, who now works for Tech Manitoba, spent part of this year as a Computers For Schools intern.

“I came in with pretty much no formal IT or tech skills,” he said. “I’ve done a little bit of computer building as a hobby on the side. I came out with all kinds of skills – being able to refurbish a computer, offer tech support on the phone, just having the discipline of cleaning the space, lots of soft skills like that, working with people.”

Paula Canas, director of digital literacy programs with Tech Manitoba, which works with Computers For Schools to provide low-cost computers to eligible Manitobans, says having a facility in the north not only provides the opportunity to train northern youth with valuable IT skills but also makes collecting, repairing and redistributing electronics easier.

“First of all, it will cut our costs in shipping and second, we can promote more computers for Northern Manitoba,” she said. “When the computer doesn’t work they have to ship it to Winnipeg but now it’s here so they can just bring the computers here or arrange something. They will fix the computers with a one-year warranty on all computers from Computers For Schools."

To learn more about computers For Schools, visit their website at www.c4smb.ca. The Thompson centre will usually be open for donations from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday, with occasional Saturday openings for those who can’t make it during the week.

For more information about receiving low-cost refurbished computers from Tech Manitoba, contact Anthony Leong at aleong@techmanitoba.ca or by phone at 204-299-8896 or visit techmanitoba.ca/free.