IT Skills for Beginners

This project tackled a very particular issue that a lot of members of our community face today. It is quite common for elderly members of Wolverhampton’s communities to find themselves unable to make the most of new technologies which can help them feel connected and involved in their communities – and even their families. We therefore taught these individuals how to make use of social media and email platforms, for example, so that they can feel more connected especially when they may find it difficult to spend a lot of time outside their homes. Furthermore, we ensured that this project itself was conducted in a social manner, so that people learned together.

History and Research

ETN conducted initial surveys and consultation in 2013, chiefly at Bilston Community Centre. We found that over 90% of individuals lacked basic and essential computer skills, which was followed by another consultation at the Milan Day Centre group; which highlighted that 80% of the people who used the centre lacked skills most of us would simply take for granted. This included being able to turn a computer on and off, and mouse and menu navigation.

However, this was not the extent of what our research discovered. More troubling were the side-effects of these issues – in particular the social isolation and the low self-esteem which can come as a result of this. This low self-esteem can then extend itself to using other technologies which, again, many of us take for granted, such as self-service check outs at supermarkets, or ATMs.

Finally, the other side of our project aimed to make use of the greater comfort and knowledge that younger generations have with regard to computers. We decided to put this to use, and develop a sense of community support within these young people, which not only brought them closer to communities with which they can also feel isolated, but also in order to move them closer to using their skills to bring them closer to a challenging and competitive job market.

The Project Itself

We therefore decided on a few crucial strategies in order to combat these issues. First amongst these was to teach these skills in participants’ first language (Hindi, Punjabi and Gujarati), so that they felt more comfortable talking about any anxieties and difficulties they were having with technology.

The second was to ensure that what participants learned, and what our team taught, were of relevance to everyone. We decided that apart from the basics, the most important thing for people to learn was how to use a computer for tasks they would be most likely to use, and which would be of most use to them. This means chiefly how to communicate and share things with their friends and family. By doing this, we challenged both their feelings of discomfort and marginalisation which these new technologies had produced in some members of the community. This was not only crucial for the social aspects we wanted to change, but also for the purposes of moving participants in this project closer to the job market.

The Team

For this project we used a more focussed team in order to provide a highly targeted and bespoke training programme for our participants. This included two sessional workers from the ETN team, as well as continued work from volunteers at Bilston Community Centre, where our project took place.