UWA students design ‘Tech Hub’ to help people in Mirrabooka gain vital digital skills and find jobs

Four UWA students have designed a plan for a Tech Hub in Mirrabooka Library to facilitate digital training for local residents seeking employment and connect them with local businesses.

The idea was developed through the post-graduate transdisciplinary unit offered by the McCusker Centre for Citizenship at UWA and forms part of a three-year partnership between the McCusker Centre for Citizenship, UWA and the City of Stirling.

Four students from three disciplines – Mahmud Safari (engineering), Ben Chia (physics), Melvin Basuki (engineering) and Sian Young (urban planning) – combined their skills and problem-solving techniques to develop a practical plan to prepare the local community for the changing face of work.

The students worked alongside community organisations to help tackle the problem of entrenched unemployment in Mirrabooka. Unemployment rates in Balga – Mirrabooka are 22% compared to the 6.7% average in City of Stirling.

Their plan is to make the Tech Hub a vibrant landmark within the community and an extension of the Mirrabooka Library with two key areas:

  1. An area for holding community digital literacy classes, bringing existing providers of digital classes into one location.
  2. A collaborative community space where local people and businesses can collaborate or establish pop-up stores, encouraging community engagement in the use of technology and providing some sources of local employment and work experience.
  3. The team believes Tech Hub will complement and streamline existing programs to make upskilling more accessible to the local community. “There are already a lot of great programs in Mirrabooka: they have basic digital literacy skills training, they also have info hubs for people seeking jobs and there are coding classes for kids,” physics student Ben Chia says. “Hopefully Tech Hub will build on the existing programs and make them more accessible and efficient.”

Mirrabooka Library Manager Viv Barton says the students’ measured and well-thought-out proposal has been well received.

“Students recognised the potential of the City’s Mirrabooka Community Hub as an important venue for providing access to training labs, services and programs that will prepare our job-seekers for future employment opportunities,” Barton says. “Student suggestions are already being considered for future programs and services within the Hub.”

City of Stirling Mayor Mark Irwin welcomed the students’ fresh ideas and action-oriented approach in tackling this complex problem. “The City is excited by the benefits that can come from the partnership with the McCusker Centre for Citizenship and UWA,” Mayor Irwin says. “The completed research has documented some of the key issues contributing to the high unemployment in the area and provided some practical solutions to help address this long-term issue.”