Link Group Ltd
Charity registered in Scotland SC001026
- Award: £9,156 via Call 1
The project will support tenants to develop their skills as part of Link’s Employability Programme. Focussing on financial capability, comparing prices, managing energy bills, budgeting will give show a practical and immediate results. The training will be accredited so that there is an additional incentive for participants. Encouraging learners to become digital champions and share their skills will be part of the project.
Starting on 21st January 2015, Link initiated a 13 week course which covered financial capability, employability, computer skills and getting online. This was delivered on behalf of Link by Be Inspired Consultancy Ltd. and part funded by the SCVO Challenge Fund.
Areas covered by the training were:
• Bank Account, or Credit Union Account
• Comparing prices, APR explanation, managing energy bills
• Paying bills online
• Basic skills needed to use a computer, access for work, benefits & budgeting
• An email account generated where necessary
• Training materials to review and practice following each session
• Online shopping
• Skype Account
• Identify Digital Champions
• Access to low cost computing
• Gain qualification (City & Guilds ICT Online Basics)
• Interviewing techniques and role play
• Covering letter for CV
• A CV generated and uploaded to universal job matching site
• Advice on setting up a business
At the conclusion of the 13 weeks those tenants who had completed the course took possession of the laptop on which they trained and had the option of taking the City & Guilds ICT Basic Online (level3) exam. Because there was an option of this qualification at the end of the course, we chose to call the full 13 weeks the “City & Guilds Course”, although this qualification was only part of the full course.
For those who completed the course and attained the qualification an award ceremony was held in Kirkshaws Neighbourhood Centre on 11th June which was attended by Link’s CEO Craig Sanderson and the certificates presented by Link’s Chairman Roy Stirrat.
Over 80% of those applying for the C&G course have been identified as tenants with no previous contact with Link advice services. This provides an opportunity to develop a relationship, engaging with these individuals and, in addition to existing needs, give further assistance in the main areas covered by the C&G course; digital inclusion, employability, and financial capability.
Of tenants who have applied, 70% are of working age and 30% over the age of 65 giving a good coverage of ages from 25 upwards. Gender of those applying is split 50%-50%. For those who responded 3% have a disability, 34% were unemployed, 3% working part time, and 39% retired. 24% are unfit for work and in receipt of appropriate benefits.
The areas identified where this training scheme covered includes neighbourhoods scoring between 0%-5% and 15%-20% on the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation. Link has housing stock in these low scoring areas and therefore direct information on tenants who would benefit from a training scheme which would provide both a qualification and a device.
There is clear evidence of need in the provision of courses with a recognised educational certification and supply of an internet ready device at the conclusion in North Lanarkshire. This invaluable lesson will influence the design and future development of courses.
OUTPUTS AND OUTCOMES
A total of 40 places were provided. (4 substituted later) Based on the 44 who attended over the 13 week period 18 either cancelled or disengaged. 26 completed the course. 24 sat their exam with 21 passing. 1 chose not to sit and 1 had a technical difficulty and has still to sit. The 3 students who failed are due to re-sit. 59% of those who started the course completed it.
As well as the existing resources which Link can provide internally in relation to these issues, these tenants were signposted to locally accessible services. The demographic data which we have received from all of those who have applied for the SCVO supported course will afford Link with the information required to partner with other organisations and support currently available services and develop future services and courses in line with this data.
The course addressed the following;
• Access – access to and ownership at the end of the course of an internet able device.
• Skills – the attainment of the skills covering digital inclusion, financial capability, and employability.
• Motivation – inspire and encourage those attending to continue with training and build on the skills and knowledge obtained on this course.
• Trust – The building of knowledge of staying safe online which will provide a basis for building trust in using the internet.
• Qualification – the successful attainment of a City & Guilds ICT Online Basics for all those attending.
• 94% reported an increased ability managing finances or making informed choices on financial products
• 100% reported an increased awareness/interest in what the internet has to offer
• 100% reported an improvement in confidence and ability going online
• 33% said they can now access the internet easier than before
• 22% advised they are now more prepared to access employment or training opportunities
• 17% reported a reduction in stress as a result of the course
• 61% noted an increase in ability to claim benefits online
• 83% reported an increased ability managing their finances online
• 44% are now able to manage their household budgets better
• 78% report an improvement in their online skills
• 33% say their overall wellbeing has improved
There were several lessons learned from the running of this course which will assist Link in the development and design of future courses:
There is improved interest from tenants during the recruitment process when there is an end product which has value. In this case there were two products which were of value; a laptop and a qualification. In future, where possible and practicable, a qualification should be the end-point of the course. This provides a meaningful termination to the course giving the tenant a mark from where they can measure their skills, abilities and achievements.
Length of course
This course was 13 weeks in length. Those who completed the course made a considerable commitment in undertaking a course of such a length. Even with the attraction of taking possession of a laptop and gaining a recognised qualification, 18 tenants cancelled or disengaged. A shorter course length would increase the possibility of tenants completing the course.
Initially it was felt important that there should be no barriers to any tenants who wished to take part in the course. As a result, there were a wide range of ages and abilities of tenants starting the course. It has become clear that the different age ranges and different circumstances of the tenants meant that they had different goals in mind; for some it was to assist in looking for work, for others it was to assist in saving money and online shopping. The course range was very broad, covering financial, social, and employability skills. This could be considered to be too wide a scope for a single course, attempting to be a single course to suit all. The design of future courses should have a narrower scope, concentrating on particular groups; unemployed, retired, absolute beginners etc.
Evidence of need
There was considerable interest in both North Lanarkshire and West Lothian during the recruitment process. This included the two partner organisations, Almond Housing and Barony Housing, both of whom had reserve lists which indicated that this type of course generated interest within their client groups. There is evidence that computer courses which have the attraction of an end product of worth, generate significant interest in areas which are targeted. As a result of the interest indicating a clear evidence of need Link has funded a further City & Guilds Course in North Lanarkshire.
The lessons learned in the running of this course have been invaluable and should be applied in the design of future courses including;
• An easy recruitment process
• A reasonable course length
• Course content suitable for client base
• An end product of value
• A meaningful end point
Things that worked well:
• Recruitment process - by mail inviting a phone call if interested. No forms for tenants to fill in.
• Confirmed end point of course marked by an exam.
• Taking possession of a device at the end of the course encouraged attendance and completion.
Things that we would do differently next time:
• Course length was too long - same number of sessions in less number of weeks would be better.
• Focus course on particular groups; older people, people of working age, disabled people etc.