Greetings readers, can you believe it’s February already? In this post we chat to Ben, who leads our Digital Advisor One-to-One Service delivered at Leicester College City Skills Centre. These are bespoke sessions that aim to improve the digital skills of Moneywise Plus participants. Ben kindly answered our questions so we could find out much more about what he delivers.
How does digital benefit society?
Digital has impacted society at nearly every level and affected how we work, communicate, shop… everything really! The digital revolution has changed things dramatically and in such a short space of time. It has reduced the costs of services and products and allows people to communicate with each other instantaneously across the globe. Digital skills benefit people if they are looking for work, accessing health services, doing banking online and also provide access to entertainment. The number of people using the internet worldwide is around 3 billion, but unfortunately there is also a significant proportion of people who have been left behind: in England there are around 10 million people who are classed as digitally excluded. My main aim is to give people skills and help them grow their digital confidence, so that they can benefit more from the present digital world and be better prepared for future changes.
What is the purpose of the sessions you deliver?
A lot of people who attend the sessions have not had the opportunity to learn the basics of using computers and the Internet. The main purpose of the sessions is to help them learn and gain these basic computer skills, as well as helping them to understand the benefits of having these skills. I do find that lots of people have attended basic computer courses throughout their life but have not been able to maintain the skills and confidence they learnt, so one of the other purposes of my sessions is to encourage continued use of computers and the Internet in community settings or whilst attending further education so they can retain and develop their digital skills.
What are some of the things people learn in their sessions with you?
My sessions focus on improving people’s gaps in their digital skills, whatever they may be. Some people need to learn the very basics of using a computer, keyboard and mouse, others may need to learn how to use the Internet or e-mail. In some cases people may be confident in the basic use of computers and the Internet but need specific support in applying for jobs online, or they may want to know how they can shop online to save money, or how to compare gas and electrical companies online to get better deals. The digital world is very broad and there really is a great variety of things people can learn during the sessions, so I encourage them to focus on what’s most important to them. For instance, Universal Credit is quite often discussed as people are unsure about the changes this system will bring, so we dedicate some time to using the Internet for research and provide them with some of the skills that they will need before they move to Universal Credit.
What is the most exciting thing about the digital revolution?
Something I find quite exciting is ‘the internet of things’, which is where ordinary household appliances and other products can connect to the Internet. I do like the idea of using my phone to turn on my lights, central heating and oven, and even look in my fridge without having to get off the sofa. It’s all a bit expensive for most of us at the moment but the prices will eventually come down and at that point we’ll start to see and use more Internet connected products. Vehicles are also more connected and already some can call an ambulance should you be involved in an accident, saving time and potentially lives. Many health monitors are now connected to the Internet so people can monitor their health at home or on the move. The information can then be easily shared with health professionals, which could help with the prevention and treatment of many health conditions.
What impact does not having digital skills have on the people you work with?
A lot of people I work with do feel quite isolated from society because of their lack of digital skills. They’re aware how much people’s use of computers and the Internet has increased, especially over the last 5 – 10 years. They sometimes feel embarrassed as well. Some people who are currently searching for work cannot do so online, and spend time going door to door handing out CVs which many employers no longer accept. As many people grew up with computers not being part of their lives at school it can be quite daunting to now start using them. In my sessions I try to reassure people that they are very capable of gaining some good digital skills during their work with the project, which can help them overcome their fears or anxieties of using computers and the Internet.
What effect does gaining digital skills have on them?
We’ve supported a lot of people now with gaining more digital skills and growing their confidence in using digital. One person I worked with was overjoyed about being able to use satellite and street maps to walk around their old town in Tanzania, a place they’ve not visited since their childhood many decades ago. It was fantastic to help someone to use the internet for this personal journey. Another person who I have supported was struggling with health problems and had to stop their career. They hadn’t needed to have digital skills in their previous career, so I helped them use the Internet to research education and career options and have already seen a massive improvement in their confidence and general outlook which is been really rewarding for both of us. Another person the project has been supporting is registered blind and was struggling with an outdated software package designed to support people with sight problems. He could not use the Internet for job searching and so had to travel quite a distance to the job centre to do all his Internet job searches there. I was able to get in touch with the software company and arranged an hour-long tutorial to help him use the software better, so he can do all his job searching from home. This was incredibly useful for him and saved him a lot of time travelling, so he was delighted with the support and feels more confident about his future. Other people I have supported have had a general fear of digital, so it’s always nice to see them overcome this and realise that with a bit of support they can gain a good level of digital skills.
Are you ever surprised by things that your clients do/don’t know?
I do empathise with people who haven’t grown up with computers and have never used them either at school, work or during life in general. With the speed technology changes it can be easy to get a little bit left behind, but people can catch up quickly as well. We support people to improve their overall skills and knowledge by accessing further education; many people don’t know that there are a lot of qualifications that they can study for free to improve their skills. I’m really passionate about people continuing with education throughout their life, so it’s a nice surprise when I see them full of confidence after passing their first ever qualification. For many people it’s about the journey of learning and it’s great to see these people grow in confidence in front of you.
Are you or someone you know struggling to develop digital skills? Moneywise Plus may be able to help you achieve this and much more. We offer support for all matters digital and financial, and can help you gain volunteering skills and confidence to become work ready. To find out if you’re eligible for our project, visit our website or give us a call on 0300 003 7004.