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Blueprint launched to improve digital skills in the region

Published: Tuesday 26 Sep 2023

A blueprint has been launched to help people land one of the 2,000 job vacancies that remain unfilled at more than 600 businesses across the West Midlands because of a digital skills shortage.

Despite digital technology becoming an essential tool of the modern world and workplace around 22% of the West Midlands population are completely offline – the highest figure of any region in the UK. Over half the West Midlands population also do not have the essential digital skills needed for work despite 84% of firms in the region saying that data skills are crucial to their company.

Now, to help more people get the skills they need to take advantage of the jobs on offer, the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and the Good Things Foundation have launched the Digital Skills Blueprint.

The innovative blueprint is the culmination of more than 12 months of work with colleges, local authorities and the voluntary and community sector on how to increase digital inclusion.

The blueprint provides West Midlands businesses, colleges and other skills providers with a targeted curriculum to give residents the training and confidence they need as well as the key building blocks to support them through accredited training.

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA Chair, said, “Digital skills and connectivity will be essential to the future health, productivity and prosperity of our region - and a key element in the development of a range of industries right across our region.

“We’ve been steadily improving our digital skills offer over the last few years since skills devolution got underway in earnest - increasing the scope and volume of training and skills bootcamps. The next step in our offer is this Digital Skills Blueprint - helping skills providers to practically reduce the digital divide that still sadly leaves some local people and communities behind.

“We will continue to harness the significant funds that the WMCA already commits to developing digital skills - using the Adult Education Budget and £4m secured for digital devices. Together, we will make a tangible difference in the lives of residents right across our region in the months and years ahead.”

The blueprint offers a practical framework for colleges and training providers to support residents with everyday digital tasks such as setting up passwords, using the internet, creating documents, using online banking, and applying online for jobs. It recognises that each individual will need a personalised approach to digital skills support, focused around their specific needs.

Cllr George Duggins, the WMCA’s portfolio holder for productivity and skills and leader of Coventry City Council, said, “I am pleased that we have worked collaboratively as a region and with the Good Things Foundation to address digital exclusion for West Midlands residents.

“It is an important basis for life/work skills and a powerful platform for progression to jobs and further learning. I look forward to finding out about how this resource has had an impact in improving digital accessibility in the region - making a real difference to everyday lives.”

Helen Milner, OBE, Group CEO at Good Things Foundation, said, "As the UK's leading digital inclusion charity, Good Things Foundation are proud to have been commissioned by the WMCA to deliver the Digital Blueprint project. 

"The insights we were able to gather from stakeholders across the West Midlands have allowed us to design a basic digital skills curriculum which will provide residents with the essential digital skills they need for life, work and further learning. 

“We are pleased that the guidance produced through this project will support local community organisations and learning providers to engage digitally excluded residents to take those first important steps to get online and improve their lives through digital."

This project is part of the WMCA’s, West Midlands Digital Roadmap and supports the key aim of securing access to more opportunities, particularly for those in poverty.

In addition, more than 17,000 digital devices have already been issued this year to digitally excluded residents under the £4m Connected Services Project  


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Notes to Editors:

About the West Midlands Combined Authority

Led by the Mayor of the West Midlands, the WMCA brings together 17 local councils to oversee the transfer of powers and funding from Whitehall to the West Midlands.

The WMCA is putting these new powers from government back where they belong, in local hands, bringing the region together to build a healthier, happier, better connected and more prosperous West Midlands.

Billions of pounds are being invested by the WMCA to improve the region’s transport network, transform its derelict industrial land into new homes and workplaces, support existing businesses and help grow the innovative, green industries of the future.

At the heart of this vision is a strong economy that is both green and inclusive, one that supports the region’s ambition to be net zero carbon by 2041 and offers everyone the opportunity of a good quality, affordable home and the skills needed for a worthwhile job.

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