Searching for a new job can often be a daunting task. Wading through job ads, updating a CV and filling out application forms can leave many people feeling out of their comfort zone. But imagine how more difficult this process is for people who do not know how to use a computer, have no access to the internet, or struggle to pay for the data required for online training or a virtual job interview.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in 2018, almost one in ten people (4.3 million) were estimated to have no basic digital skills[i] which is leading to a digital divide between those who have access to information and communications technology and those who do not. Nesa’s recent report on ‘data poverty’ found particular challenges for people who are unemployed and looking for work, who may ‘have high data needs combined with a low income.’[ii]
Simon Mahony, Digital Transformation Director at Maximus UK, discusses how our delivery of the Restart Scheme is dedicating funds and resource to support people to learn digital skills to help them secure employment.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has identified just how important it is to have access to technology to stay connected to the world. People who are ‘digitally excluded’, those who don’t have access to the internet or who don’t feel confident using a computer, can so easily feel cut off from society and this can have serious impacts on their life decisions, mental and physical health, and overall financial success and wellbeing.
If people are searching for a new job, but are not sure how to do this online, or don’t have access to a computer or the internet, then this can drastically lower the individual’s chances of finding work. This stretches far beyond exclusion from roles requiring digital know-how. Most vacancy listings and applications are online, and potential employers can also be discouraged from employing someone with few digital skills. Digital skills are therefore important, not just for looking for a job, but also to increase the likelihood of an individual securing a job.
We took an early decision to place digital inclusion at the heart of our delivery of the new Restart Scheme. The scheme provides enhanced support to long-term unemployed people, with Maximus delivering it across South and West Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, and South and East London.
We’ve dedicated nearly £1 million to specifically identify people who need support with digital skills and provide them with the right level of help. This support takes many forms, from one-to-one support with specialist digital inclusion specialists to financial support through a new Digital Access Fund to cover the costs of equipment and data that we know are vital to a successful job search.
People on the Restart Scheme will be assessed for digital literacy during the initial stages of our engagement with them so that we can build in digital literate support from the start if it is needed. Our Advisers and Employment Coaches will be on hand to guide participants through digital tools, for example our employment support hub and online application forms. We’ll also host training sessions such as how to create a document and how to search online.
Working with our community partners, we will offer digital training qualifications to those with specific skills gaps. In addition, anyone without access to the internet will be given a smartphone and data and receive help to get them set up online.
We’re still in the early stages of our delivery of the Restart Scheme, but I’m excited to see the results of providing this type of digital support. Long-term unemployment and digital exclusion and poverty are among the greatest social challenges we face as a country as we look to recover from the pandemic. The steps we’re taking will make a real difference to the people we’re working with and, given the scale of the Restart Scheme, should help to address the digital skills gap in the local communities we’re operating in.”
Find out more about the Restart Scheme here: https://maximus.restart.uk/