Digital NEST Salinas tech campus firehouse
Digital NEST’s sites, such as its Salinas location that converted a former firehouse, resemble tech campuses with open working spaces. Photo courtesy of Digital NEST
music in the park san jose

Digital NEST is getting closer to opening its youth workforce development center in Gilroy, and has a number of workshops and social activities scheduled soon to inspire young people to pursue a career in tech.

Jason Franks, Digital NEST’s senior site manager for Gilroy, said the organization is anxious to bring its programs to the South County community after announcing its plans to expand here more than a year ago.

The goal is to find a spot that is centrally located, such as near a school or downtown, Franks said. The organization, which has transformed historic buildings for its two other locations in Watsonville and Salinas, aims to have facilities that represent tech campuses, featuring open co-working spaces and easy access to food and other amenities.

“We really want to have the right space,” he said. “We feel students deserve a nice clean open space that they feel is their own.”

Founded in 2014 in Watsonville by Jacob Martinez, Digital NEST provides young people in rural communities with technology skills and hands-on experience, with the goal of preparing them for well-paying jobs in the tech field.

Gilroy’s proximity to the Silicon Valley industry makes it a prime location to mentor young talent, Franks said.

“There’s a lot of excitement for Digital NEST in Gilroy, geographically being so close to Silicon Valley,” he said. “Our main goal is to mentor youth from these rural communities that surround the Silicon Valley for jobs in the tech fields.”

Since opening its doors in Watsonville, the NEST has provided more than 2,200 young people with access to free tech and workforce skills training in areas such as web development, project management and digital arts. According to statistics by Digital NEST, alumni, on average, make a starting salary of $45,760, and more than 100 alumni have been placed in jobs, internships and/or college.

Its paid internship program, bizzNEST, gives young people the opportunity to provide web design, video and other digital services for a variety of companies. The organization is also holding NEST Flight from May 4-5, a conference for young people featuring speakers, workshops, panel discussions and more.

Franks, a 43-year Gilroy resident, joined the organization in September.

“I can’t wait to see something like this in town,” he said. “When I was growing up, we had a skating rink, two movie theaters…right now it’s tough for youth to get out of their house and socialize.”

Beginning this week, Digital NEST will host its first Gilroy events at CMAP, located in Greenhouse Coworking at 7500 Monterey St.

On March 25 and every other Friday through May 20, the NEST will host Friday Night Gaming. The free event, geared toward ages 14-18, will feature a variety of classic arcade fighting games such as “Street Fighter” and “Mortal Kombat.” Casual play runs from 6-7pm, with a tournament-style event running from 7-8pm that includes prizes.

Beginning on April 1 and running every other Friday from 6-8pm through June 3 at CMAP, Digital NEST will offer free music production classes. The classes, also geared for ages 14-18, will teach young people the basics of digital music production, including drum programming, sequencing, special effects, mixing and more, with every student having their own song by the end of the series.

To register for the events and classes, or for information about Digital NEST’s programming, email [email protected] or visit

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Erik Chalhoub joined Weeklys as an editor in 2019. Prior to his current position, Chalhoub worked at The Pajaronian in Watsonville for seven years, serving as managing editor from 2014-2019.


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