Bronwen chips in to help boost digital skills in Neath
A young Neath mum who never bothered much with computers after leaving school has now switched onto a new mission, becoming a local digital champion who spends her spare time helping others to sharpen their IT skills.
Bronwen Morris, 23, who had been a full-time parent for three years, now sees strong computer skills as her lifeline back to the world of work.
She spends part of her week working in a local chip shop but in her free time really enjoys helping both young and old to build their knowledge of the internet and the online world. Moreover she’s now hoping she can build a new career in an IT related occupation.
The change came about after Bronwen decided to boost her job prospects by signing up for free computer training with the flagship Welsh Government funded Communities 2.0, which aims to get all of Wales’ adults on line.
Within a short time her confidence began to soar and she switched from being an occasional user of the internet to being an enthusiast using the technology constantly.
The programme, Communities 2.0, has given thousands of people across Wales the opportunity to improve their digital skills with the aim of ending digital exclusion and preparing individuals for a developing job market that increasingly demands computer skills.
Over the past five years the grass roots programme has provided free computer training and support for over 42,000 people, including hundreds in the Neath area. The training, delivered in local venues such as libraries is tailored to the needs of individual learners; ranging from basic computer and internet skills to bespoke training on particular programs or mobile devices.
Until now the scheme has been focused on Wales’ EU convergence areas but from this month is being expanded to cover all areas of the country, as the organisers of Communities 2.0 step up their efforts to ensure everyone gains the skills and knowhow to take advantage of the internet and digital technology generally.
Bronwen, who was unemployed when she began the programme in March 2014, wanted to do something to gain experience and new qualifications which would make her stand out in the job market:
“I decided to attend the course in order to learn new skills but also to meet new people – that’s what I love to do. I had basic computer skills from school such as spreadsheets and Word documents, and I have a computer in the house but I didn’t know the ins and outs or understand the importance of digital skills in the current job market. Before the training I occasionally used a computer in the library and the computer at home, mainly for browsing or online games– now I use my skills every day”
Communities 2.0 training has not only expanded Bronwen’s understanding of digital skills, it has aided her in many aspects of day-to-day life, providing knowledge and confidence in online activity; “I feel safer shopping online now and I am able to keep in touch with friends and relatives via email and social networking sites such as Facebook”
Having improved her own digital skills, Bronwen works voluntarily at the Neath YMCA once a week, helping others develop their skills, alongside her part-time job at a local chip shop.
Bronwen works with mostly older generations however she has with individuals her own age who are keen to improve their digital skills. “I love helping others and this course has given me more confidence in myself and more confidence to help and inspire others”.
Since undertaking the Communities 2.0 training, Bronwen has also been awarded Finalist Communities First Learner in the Neath Port Talbot Adult Learner Awards 2014 which took place earlier this month.
Her advice to others considering a digital training is to seize the opportunity to learn through programmes like Communities 2.0 and develop existing skills; “Do it, get the experience if you can and go for it” she said, adding that these skills look great on the CV and can lead to so many opportunities.
Although she is thrilled to be in a position to help provide this opportunity for others through volunteering, Bronwen is eager to develop her volunteer work into a career. Moving forward she is hoping to turn fried chips into microchips and use her skills in future employment.
Commenting of the success to date, Cathryn Marcus, Project Director of Communities 2.0: “We are delighted to announce Communities 2.0’s is now available in all areas of Wales. To date, thousands who would otherwise remain digitally isolated, have now discovered the rewards of being online.
“Connecting pensioners with loved ones living abroad via Skype; providing unemployed people with qualifications and the ability to find work, and; ensuring disabled individuals can access skills they thought unobtainable; these are just a few examples what is now available to every person in Wales. Now is the time to get online!”
The Welsh Government and European Regional Development Funded programme provides training free of charge to Welsh residents and is delivered through partnerships with public libraries, job centres and community buildings.
Information on free adult ICT session with Communities 2.0 is available from 0845 474 8282 or from local libraries, drop-in centres post offices or other community venues.