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July 10, 2003

CGS to close Computer Learning Center, cut jobs

In a move described as a financial decision, Pitt is closing its Downtown Computer Learning Center (CLC), an information technology training organization in the College of General Studies (CGS).

The July 31 closing means the elimination of 15 part-time jobs and one full-time position, including that of CLC’s founding director, Carla Depperman. Depperman said that the three other full-time CLC staff have been re-assigned to CGS staff positions.

“This was a recent decision and I understand the decision completely,” said Depperman, who launched the off-campus training center in 1984.

“There have been major changes in the IT (information technology) marketplace, including an extensive economic recession that has affected corporations, which are our prime audience. Companies can’t afford to have staff away from the office for training. Now they want customized, short-term, on-site training. We’ve had more generic training here. Our mission has always been to service the region’s employers and working adults, and that marketplace can no longer sustain a center of this size and scope.”

The rise in on-line and CD-ROM computer training programs, and a younger generation of computer-savvy employees, also are factors in CLC’s demise, Depperman said.

She said CLC recently tried several forays into expanding its services including adding an e-commerce training program and an interactive-TV distance education project with Pitt’s Bradford campus. “But, again, we couldn’t find enough other clients to use these services,” Depperman said.

CGS Dean Susan R. Kinsey declined comment on the number of affected jobs. “It would be inappropriate to comment at this point on any personnel matters, which have not been finalized,” Kinsey told the University Times yesterday. “Not everybody has been notified at this point. But the bottom has fallen out of the technology training market, and this decision is purely financial.”

Depperman said, “The Computer Learning Center was a start-up [company] that trained a whole generation of computer users. We’ve been through DOS and Windows and the Microsoft explosion and on into the Internet.” She estimated that the center trained 75,000 clients over its history, including about 60-65 percent repeat customers. “We also trained a huge number of Pitt and UPMC employees, offering discounts. Pitt was always in the top 5 of our customers.”

CGS’s administration is considering using the CLC training equipment to establish an in-house IT classroom for training Pitt computer users, Depperman said.

In its heyday CLC served up to 700 companies in a year, averaging about 4,000 clients annually. Its peak year was 2000, Depperman said, noting that the fall-off in clientele has been precipitous. “We had a great ride for 19 years. We had 17 good years, and the last two really lean years.” Depperman added that she hopes to find another job at the University.

Pitt’s 5-year lease in the Kossman Building, CLC’s home since its inception, expires in November, but the doors to CLC will close permanently July 31.

—Peter Hart

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