Guest Post: Free IT training for Local Business!

Unlocking the power of IT can make an enormous difference to your business

Digital Economy in the Heads of the Valleys (DEHOV)

Fully or Part Funded Work Based IT Training for Local Business

In the latest in my irregular series on digital and online related issues, Claire Davies has supplied us with some important information for SMEs and the like in the South Wales Valleys. Apologies for readers outside of this area (I know you’re there, I can see your breath!) but this seems a great opportunity, too good to miss. Over to Claire:

Private and third sector companies based in the South Wales Valleys have a fantastic opportunity to take advantage of an initiative aimed at arming them with the skills and knowledge they need to work effectively within a digital age.

Technology is everywhere – there are few businesses that are able to function without using it somewhere within their processes and functions.  In fact, there is so much out there – Internet, e-commerce, social media, mobile apps, varying software platforms –  it can become difficult to determine which technology will benefit a business.  The vast array of ‘solutions’ available may even become a barrier to some, making it easier to ignore them altogether and therefore miss out on potential opportunities.  Fear of the unknown!  How many small retail businesses do we see closing down every day?  I’ve often thought ‘if only they’d got online and gone down the e-trading route – who knows what would have happened’.

In addition to the marketing and selling opportunities that technology presents business there is the challenge of using the various software platforms available – how many people ‘get by’ and just use the bare bones of spreadsheets, computerised accounting systems, photo editing packages etc.?  The number of people who use these systems everyday, without having had formal training is a constant source of concern to me – just a little formal learning can substantially improve processes and save huge amounts of time.  Yet, this is very rarely a priority within business.  I have been working with a local, small manufacturing business, who have sent some of their staff on a spreadsheet training course –  as a result, they have improved their efficiencies greatly.  On a recent visit, I was stopped by several members of staff citing examples of learning something that has reduced a process from e.g. 4 hours to just 30 minutes.  It will be interesting to establish, over time, how this affects the business in real terms.

How many business people pay out large sums of money to  have a website developed, which they then have little or no control over?  Or alternatively, create their own with the restrictions of using available templates?  These websites may also be created without the knowledge required to ensure users (customers) are drawn in and able to use and navigate the website easily.  And let’s not forget about those Google rankings!  Search engine optimisation is a topic within itself.

Well, I am very pleased to say that the project I am working on Digital Economy Heads of the Valleys (DEHOV) aims to help local business navigate their way through this digital age, gain the skills and knowledge required to decipher and use the varying technology available, upskill and train their staff to improve efficiencies and (hopefully) not only help them survive, but to thrive and utilise technology to its full potential.

What are the facts?

Ø     DEHOV is a joint project delivered via the University of Glamorgan and the University of Wales, Newport.

Ø     DEHOV part of the Work Based learning programme funded by the EU’s Convergence European Social Fund through the Welsh Government1.

Ø     The training courses are offered to people employed in the private or third sector who live and/or work in Rhondda Cynon Taff, Merthyr Tydfil, Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly & Torfaen.

Ø     All the courses offer the participants university credits that can be used towards further learning, if needed.  Each person can do a maximum of 60 credits via this project.

Ø     The project is ‘on-demand’ in that we work with business to establish their training requirements and run the courses they require.

Ø     Courses are held at local venues on days and times to suit the businesses attending – they can also be held in-house if numbers and facilities allow.

Ø     There are various courses available (which can differ between the 2 universities), which include social media, web-design, computerised accounting (SAGE), computer aided design (AutoCAD), photo editing and desk-top publishing (Photoshop) and the various MS Office packages.

At present, we are working with around 75 local companies with varying training requirements and almost all of them being eligible for full funding.  So, they’re receiving the valuable training they want and need – it will be interesting to evaluate exactly how this training benefits their businesses in the long-term.

Watch this space!

This is a Work Based Learning (WBL) course and is part of the WBL Programme. DEHOV has been made possible by the EU’s Convergence European Social Fund (ESF) through the Welsh Government. This Programme is a pan-Wales initiative, led by the University of Glamorgan on behalf of the Higher Education and Further Education sectors, which aims to improve the skills, knowledge and competencies of people in private sector employment who live and/or work in West Wales and the Valleys.

Claire Davies is an Employer Engagement Lecturer, working on the DEHOV project running from the University of Glamorgan.  She works with local business to assess their IT training requirements and ensure they receive the training they need.  Claire has a dual role in that she also delivers some of the training.

Claire says ‘I have trained and taught people in IT related subjects for the last 12 years, ranging from community learning to professional training services on the GS1 UK Data Pool.  I love to impart knowledge to others and get a great thrill from teaching people skills that will ultimately have an effect on their lives – whether that’s improving how they work or giving them the skills they need to gain more fulfilling employment.

‘I come from an administration based background, but after having my sons I returned to education, got divorced and studied for a degree as a mature student – it was this that enabled me to move into training and teaching.’

‘On a personal level, I love cooking (I cook everything from scratch – even bake my own bread), gardening, Latin & Ballroom dancing, walking, watching Wales play rugby and spending time (and cooking for) friends and family.’

Thanks Claire, what an extremely useful service, hopefully someone reading this will benefit. I can heartily recommend the courses from personal experience, as one of the team at Real Radio has just signed up for the social media training. I’ll let you all know how it goes!