The New Digital Skills Curriculum Blueprint for the West Midlands
West Midlands Combined Authority are launching a first-of-its-kind Digital Skills Curriculum Blueprint for the West Midlands region in partnership with Good Things Foundation.
John Hall, the Senior Delivery Manager-Employment Support at WMCA, blogs about the Digital Skills Curriculum Blueprint and what this means for digital excluded adults in West Midlands.
Fixing the Digital Divide
In today’s fast-paced, digital world, access to technology and essential digital skills is more crucial than ever. Unfortunately, digital exclusion remains a significant challenge for many individuals, limiting their access to essential services, educational resources, and employment opportunities. The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) is proud to announce a new initiative, developed in partnership with the Good Things Foundation, aimed at addressing this critical issue head-on.
Digital Exclusion: A Local Challenge with a Significant Impact
Digital exclusion affects people’s everyday lives in numerous ways, from accessing essential services to supporting their children’s education. Research indicates that in the West Midlands, over half of adults (56%) lack the fundamental digital skills required for the workforce. What’s more, the region struggles with the highest proportion of employers finding it difficult to hire applicants with digital skills (38%).
WMCA recognises the urgency of tackling digital exclusion and has outlined its ambitions in a comprehensive Digital Roadmap, focusing on three key pillars: accessibility, connectivity, and skills. While there is plenty of good practice across the region, these initiatives are often isolated and constrained by short-term funding. As a result, there is no cohesive offer to support residents from their first interaction with a digital device through to accredited learning and, ultimately, employment opportunities.
A Collaborative Effort to Overcome Digital Exclusion
Over the past three years, WMCA has been working closely with Good Things Foundation to address the challenges of digital exclusion. Together, we have commissioned and delivered the Digital Skills Pathway for Shared Prosperity project through the Community Renewal Fund, engaging over 2000 residents in our innovative pathway and creating valuable voluntary sector networks. This project successfully enabled residents to access free resources such as data and devices via Good Things’ National Databank.
The WMCA further sought to enhance accessibility and connectivity through the Connect Services Project, securing £4 million to distribute over 17,000 digital devices to digitally excluded residents. Delivered by local authority partners, this initiative has significantly expanded digital capacity across the region, making digital devices accessible in key community venues.
Building upon the success of these projects and in partnership with Good Things Foundation, we posed a crucial question: How can we expand these networks and create a relevant digital training curriculum that not only addresses the immediate needs of residents but also provides the necessary building blocks for accredited training?
Creating a Blueprint for a Digital Future
Over the past year, Good Things consulted extensively with key stakeholders from the voluntary sector, adult community learning programs, local authorities, and colleges. The goal was to identify best practices, capture what does not work, and develop a toolkit and resources to enable partners to support residents consistently. This initiative also lays the foundation for future WMCA funding opportunities, ensuring the ecosystem is in place to deliver these vital interventions.
A Vision for the Future
The release of our important work, the Digital Skills Curriculum Blueprint, is expected to serve as a guide for organisations across the West Midlands and beyond. The hope is that it will not only enhance an organisation’s offer but also inspire collaboration to create a seamless digital journey that directly addresses the digital exclusion challenges faced by residents.
Fixing the digital divide is not just a local challenge; it’s a global imperative. WMCA and Good Things Foundation are taking a proactive approach to ensure that no one is left behind in the digital age. With this Blueprint, we aim to set the stage for a more inclusive and digitally empowered future for all West Midlands residents.