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NEW DIGITAL TELEVISION TECHNOLOGY BRINGS IMPROVED JOB SKILLS TRAINING TO CHESTER COUNTY
Collaboration between WHYY and Workforce Investment Board puts people on track for work success

It will soon be easier for entry-level workers to gain the job skills they need, thanks to a groundbreaking use of digital television technology. WHYY, in cooperation with the Chester County Workforce Investment Board, is installing computers at five locations in the County that will provide adult basic education material for students who need to complete high school equivalency courses and polish their workforce skills.

The system will be unveiled on Thursday, December 5 at 10 a.m. at the Chester County CareerLink in Coatesville. Additional workstations are available to residents at the Chester County OIC in West Chester, Parkesburg Library in Parkesburg, and the Southern Chester County YMCA in West Grove. Another workstation will be located in either Exton or Phoenixville.

WHYY, in cooperation with the Workforce Investment Boards in Chester, Philadelphia, Delaware and Montgomery counties, is installing computers with built-in digital tuners at 20 locations in the region. WHYY will broadcast on its digital TV channel adult basic education material and workforce skills courses (at sites not reached by WHYY's current digital signal, the data course material is loaded on the computers using CDs). This datacasting system - thought of as a "PC with rabbit ears" - allows large amounts of curriculum information, documents, video and audio clips to be captured from the television signal and stored in a computer in a fraction of the time it would take to send the information through the Internet. The content that WHYY will broadcast to all partner sites can be received and updated in minutes, compared to hours, using a typical home Internet connection.

"This new system makes it possible to provide training where it is needed, when it is needed and to those who need it most," said WHYY President and CEO William J. Marrazzo. "This is one more example of how WHYY is using technology to provide lifelong learning to residents of this region."

"Chester County is a proud partner with WHYY in the establishment of this bold and innovative technology in our region," said Chester County Department of Community Development Director Thomas H. McIntyre.

The content for this prototype system utilizes existing "Workplace Essential Skills" and "GED Connection" video courses developed by PBS Literacy Link. With the new system, some 58 half-hour video segments and more than 700 pages of text are quickly received and stored on computers for later use.

WHYY is installing a total of 20 computers in Delaware, Philadelphia, Chester and Montgomery counties at training centers, colleges and libraries at no cost to participating agencies. A $188,000 grant from Pennsylvania Public Television Network (PPTN) supports the project in this region.

Susan Knoble, WHYY Executive Director of Adult Learning, points out that datacasting allows material to be updated at any time, and offers an easy-to-use interface for students with high-quality video and online workbooks. Students can complete the courses at their own pace,while instructors can track the progress of all the participants. "The goals are to prepare entry- level workers for the workplace, and to increase the number of Pennsylvania residents completing their education," said Knoble.

WHYY is pioneering the use of digital datacasting in this region. In a test project in 2001, WHYY placed computers at five child-care centers in Delaware and at the Haddington Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia, to deliver staff training and curriculum material for child-care providers. Information gained from these pilot projects will help WHYY develop long-term plans to provide lifelong learning opportunities through the use of digital television. For example, datacasting will make it possible to deliver business workshops directly to computer desktops, replacing expensive satellite videoconferences and slow Internet links.

Datacasting uses only a small portion of the digital television bandwith. A high definition television program or several standard definition television programs can be transmitted at the same time without interference.

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