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Where to Learn Computer Skills for Not Much


Q: Are free workshops available where a business owner who is a non-computer-user can learn computer skills? I plan to acquire a computer for my business in the near future.

--G.K., Torrance

A: Free workshops are offered occasionally, but they are not always easy to find. The best places to consider are adult education classes or vocational schools, many of which give evening or weekend computer classes that are free or at least low-cost. Another place to look for a free or inexpensive workshop is at your local community college, library or at a business agency that receives state or federal funding, such as a Small Business Development Center.

Typically, computer classes will last several hours over a given Saturday or weekend. If the fee works out to about $20 an hour, it's a bargain. If you ask a professional to tutor you privately, the cost is likely to be in the $60 to $80 range.

I tell people who have never touched a computer to start by taking a basic course that teaches the Windows operating system, the first computer screen they are likely to have contact with. Once you are comfortable opening and closing files and interacting with the Windows desktop, you'd benefit from a class that teaches software applications that do word processing and spreadsheets.

The next priorities for business owners would be mastering bookkeeping software, personal information management software (which allows you to store things like business contacts, appointments and telephone numbers in your computer) and marketing software, which would enable them to create publicity and marketing materials, newsletters and mailing lists in-house.

Finally, all business owners should purchase and know how to use communications software that allows them to send e-mail and access the Internet.

--Constantino Pinon, business analyst and computer technology trainer, West Los Angeles County Minority Business Development Center


If you have a question about how to start or operate a small business, please mail it to Karen E. Klein in care of the Business Section, Los Angeles Times, 1333 S. Mayflower Ave., Suite 100, Monrovia, CA 91016, or e-mail it to Include your name, address and telephone number. This column is designed to answer questions of general interest. It should not be construed as legal advice.

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