Recruiting tech talent to upskill young people in Wales

The Wales Co-operative Centre has been at the forefront of digital inclusion in Wales since 2006. We deliver digital inclusion through our current Welsh Government funded Digital Communities Wales programme and the Nominet Trust funded My Digital Life project.

“My Digital Life” is a nine-month pilot programme run by the Wales Co-operative Centre, working in partnership with GISDA, Llamau and Swansea YMCA. The partners support young people aged 16-24 years, who are disadvantaged and disengaged from formal training or education in Wales to become more digitally engaged.

The project aims to improve young people’s digital skills, confidence and self-esteem, using approaches that chime with their interests and are tailored to meet their specific needs. This is done through small group sessions that include personal budgeting, job searching, raising self-esteem, confidence building and creative design. We constantly strive to develop new solutions and approaches to support all digitally excluded individuals in Wales, building on our extensive experience in this field.

As the project officer on this pilot, one of my tasks has been to find digital mentors, who can work alongside current staff in the partner organisations, to deliver bespoke tech sessions to small groups of young people. I’ve recruited lots of people in the years that I’ve worked in the third sector, but never digital mentors. How was I going to do that with limited knowledge of tech and apps? And what is the profile of the perfect digital mentor and how can we find them? We started with a list of questions such as ‘What kind of approach is needed from the digital mentors and should they have practical skills?’

With just two weeks to find them, back in the autumn of 2017, we began a small advertising campaign across our networks, online and by word of mouth, and found a whole bunch of people to talk to and discuss the project with.

I could not believe the enthusiasm, confidence, knowledge, flexibility and adaptability of the people we met. They delivered practical sessions, answered all our questions and, consequently, have been engaged with all three of our partners across Wales.

I’m so relieved that we have found the right people and am continually amazed at the talent, passion and professionalism that continues to exist in delivery within the third sector, despite the difficulties of the current climate.

The real benefits of the project to date come from tailored interventions that meet a young person’s individual needs. We look at aspects of their lives that could be changed by improving their digital skills. Many of the young people we meet live chaotic lives, with little support around them and are at risk of becoming homeless, living in poverty and being out of work, so we get to know them to understand what solutions might work for them.

Working on this project is a reminder of why I love working in the third sector. I’m overjoyed that there are still so many committed people out there to support those in our communities that have not always been given the best start.

I’ve learnt that it doesn’t matter if there are gaps in your knowledge, because there is always someone out there who’ll be able to fill the gaps and teach you what you didn’t know. You just need to ask!

After the digital mentors were recruited, extensive consultation took place with young people across the three organisations in Wales to inform the content of the digital sessions. The design of sessions for young people with the digital mentors began through a consultation, with each of the organisations, with dates arranged for delivery.

Between now and March 2018, we’ll be supporting at least 375 young people to increase their confidence, build self-esteem and become more digitally engaged, in order to explore opportunities beyond their current life situation.

Watch this space or follow @WalesCoopCentre on Twitter for updates on My Digital Life project. For any questions about the pilot contact me at michelle.herbert@wales.coop.

 

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