In the digital age, web accessibility is crucial to securing sustainable employability.

According to a report published in the US by the Council of Economic Advisers in 2016, household broadband significantly quickens the process of with finding a job and in doing so helps to form an efficient labour market. Wider research echoes this, indicating that job seekers with internet access tend to have higher employability over time.

So, what does this mean for those who cannot afford access to the internet? It means a digital divide – and for those on the fringes of society – it leads to digital exclusion.

As highlighted by Armstrong and Ruiz (2015) – this is a vicious cycle. The article indicates that, to receive unemployment benefits, individuals must prove that they spend up to 35 hours a week actively looking for a job and working on online applications. If they fail to do so, their status as an unemployment benefit receiver becomes at risk.

There are, of course, ways to use the internet without in-house broadband. As the government webpage titled, ‘Your rights and safety when looking for a job’ states:

“You can use a computer to access the internet for free at your local Jobcentre Plus office or in your local library. Find your local UK online centre for help getting online and using the internet.” (GOV.UK)

However, in reality, many jobseeker’s have difficulties reserving these facilities, and public aids are often not practical and do not sufficiently help people to find jobs without using the internet (Armstrong and Ruiz, 2015). The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) indicate that digital exclusion is not only about not having an access to the internet but is also defined by not knowing how to best use the internet.

This is where JobSkilla comes in. JobSkilla, founded by Chris Hughes and Lisa Hughes, is part of the Wayra Fair By Design cohort and tackles digital exclusion, employability issues and much more. The Fair By Design programme is supported by JRF, Ascension ventures, Big Society Capital and run by Wayra UK. JobSkilla, it is a web-based platform connecting the unemployed and under-employed to free vocational training providers. You can easily search training courses by entering your residential location and a relevant category of training for you. All courses listed on JobSkilla are free to attend and are currently available in England.

As an intern at True & North, I had the opportunity to meet Chris and Lisa, the founders of JobSkilla during one of their sales and business development coaching sessions with True & North (provided by Wayra UK as part of the acceleration programme). During their introductory explanation about JobSkilla, I felt the passion and pride they have for their business and its ability to improves the lives of those at the margins, through sustainable employability.

They came to True & North to build a growth strategy, through which they aim to reach more people in need (both training companies and learners) and to better engage key stakeholders in local government.

As founder Chris told me, “We set up JobSkilla to help unemployed people as this has been our passion and work lives for the past 13 years. There are thousands of free training courses and services out there to support unemployed people back to work, but all these services are hard to find and advertised differently. Having worked within the Welfare to Work sector it was clear that unemployed people and their advisers found it hard to keep track of what was out there to help. Advisers simply don’t have the time to search and call around lots of different training providers and services due to high caseloads and short appointments with their customers.

The solution was simple the sector needed a type of to make the whole process cheaper, faster, easier and better to efficiently find and book onto what was needed in minutes not hours. We were both that sure that this was needed that we quit our jobs and started to create JobSkilla. We wanted JobSkilla to help unemployed people access the right service for them and empower them to make their own decisions on their future careers and training. We wanted advisers to be able to offer a multitude of options to their customers at the click of a button and we wanted training providers to be able to easily access the right unemployed learners. We believe we have made a good start and are excited to help as many people as possible across the UK as we expand!”

They offer a Digital Inclusion course which starts by providing all participants with a personal laptop for the duration. They then cover all necessities to achieve sustainable digital inclusion by offering learners a basic I.T. qualification, basic employability, Universal Credit training, and universal Jobmatch.

JobSkilla is already transforming lives. Co-founder Chris Hughes says “In February 2017, we met Moez on the streets of Oldham, he saw our JobSkilla tops and he asked if we could help him get a job. He was on benefits and struggling. Moez said that he was interested in Warehouse and Construction but he had no qualifications or industry licences and was, therefore, finding it really hard to get a job.

We showed him the JobSkilla website and he found two courses; Warehouse Level 2 with FLT and Construction Level 1 with CSCS Test & Card, both set up via JobSkilla for the local community to benefit and all completely free and funded. Moez, booked online via JobSkilla, attended both courses and became qualified. He was also able to drive an FLT and work safely on a construction site. Moez is now in full-time work as an FLT Driver and has been for many months, he has also done some work in Construction.”

It is clear that JobSkilla’s platform is a great example of the network effect, as more learners and more training providers take part, there is more value for all. I cannot wait to see how they develop and create social impact by being a smart mediator in the training market.

Yejin Suh

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