People living in Lancashire without basic digital skills are probably paying more than they should across a variety of areas says Lancashire Skills Hub director Dr Michele Lawty-Jones.
In April a pioneering Government scheme to boost digital skills launched in Lancashire. It was the first Digital Skills Partnership piloted by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in the county, in partnership with the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership’s Skills and Employment Hub.
Since then the organisation has secured further funding from DCMS to appoint a digital skills coordinator to Lancashire, as Lawty-Jones hopes a more joined up approach will make sure no one misses out because of a lack of digital skills.
Lawty-Jones’ comments come ahead of BusinessCloud’s Lancashire Digital Skills event on 14th November.
“One of our key themes is around digital inclusion in terms of giving people basic skills – not only so they can access public services but also so they can use things like price comparison sites and boost their employability,” she told BusinessCloud.
“It’s a matter of economic health and wellbeing – if you’re not using digital then you’re probably paying more than you should for a variety of things.”
Having the basic digital skills to be able to function effectively and make the best use of digital could be something as easy as using YouTube to fix something rather than paying for a service says Lawty-Jones.
Another key theme of the organisation six months after launch is around the pipeline of future skills and getting young people excited about digital job opportunities, particularly for women.
Apprenticeships and higher level skills shortages with a focus on helping SMEs to adopt and embrace tech adoption into their business model is also crucial.
“Some of that is about engaging with corporates, and SME leadership and management having the will to embrace new tech as well as employees being supported to develop tech skills,” said Lawty-Jones.
The organisation recently established a steering group for the partnership chaired by Mike Blackburn, who is also one of the Lancashire LEP board members.
“Google Garage announced it would give 1,000 training places to Lancashire at the event in April, now we have around 30 events across the region that have started to happen through relationships with partners across Lancashire,” said Lawty-Jones.
“We have partnership with various councils and the university to ensure the topics are spread across Lancashire.”
The organisation is prioritising the use of European social funds to drive digital in the region’s most disadvantaged communities.
“Before we launched we were already directing funds towards digital,” said Lawty-Jones.
“We a had map of how we were going to try and tackle the basic, intermediate and higher skills and how they link to our key themes. That’s when DCMS said ‘oh that looks really interesting’ and saw how it links across to the model they’re developing for local digital skills partnership.
“The partnership has given us more impetus to really drive the programme. What we want to do – and to an extent what we have done already – is map the local offering and see where there are gaps and what else we need to do.
“One of the benefits of working with DCMS is engaging with some of the corporates and their offers, like Google, and making sure it adds value locally and that we’re not duplicating local provision that providers are already offering.
“With Google Garage businesses get support, workshops and potentially mentoring from Google but they will also find out about our skills support for the workforce offer, so if they want to do more formal qualifications around digital they can and it all feeds into each other, we’re not doing it in isolation.”
BusinessCloud’s half-day conference ‘Lancashire’s untold digital story’ – will open up all aspects of the county’s digital story and see what the future looks like.
Speakers include Gary Hall, chief executive, Chorley Council; Andrew Green, CTO, Utiligroup; Stephen Johnson, co-founder and director, ROQ; Mark Crabtree, founder, AMS Neve; Michael Gibson, chair, Digital Lancashire; Miranda Barker, chief executive of East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce; Jennie Williams, cyber protect officer, Regional Cyber Crime Unit (NWROCU); and Michelle Mellor, managing director, Cummins Mellor.