BRIEF

Metropolitan Housing discussed with We Are Digital in the summer of 2015 how they could increase their residents’ digital skills, employment chances and awareness of upcoming welfare reforms. Two of the main issues were how to engage large numbers of residents to guarantee attendance at classes (due to poor attendance in past projects they had been involved with, with some courses having to stop due to no learners turning up) and also how to run simultaneous courses in three regions (Derby, Nottingham and London) to ensure the contract was successfully completed by March 2016, only 6 months away. Metropolitan also wanted to provide residents with the opportunity to purchase a recycled laptop from refurbisher Tier 1, as part of the course, at a 50% discount, through weekly payments.

SOLUTION

We Are Digital utilised our tried and tested promotional model that had previously worked well in engaging learners for over 50 other Digital Inclusion projects across the UK with housing associations and councils, via texting Metropolitan residents and directing them to our unique automated telephone registration line. The system asks a series of questions of the learner (name, location, skill level, unavailability), on behalf of the organization, automatically transcribing all the caller’s answers onto a spreadsheet, using a bespoke transcription system.

Not only did this save a huge amount of internal Metropolitan staff time, but the added benefit was that Metropolitan staff in each region could also signpost their local tenants to the registration line. We Are Digital could then sort all the incoming registrations via resident location, skill level, numbers of participants, etc, into varying courses in different locations and at different start times.

RESULTS

Within 48 hours We Are Digital had received more than 400 full registrations from residents on the telephone line, without one inbound or outbound call being made. The entire 6-month contract of work was filled in less than a week and Metropolitan ultimately had waiting lists in multiple boroughs to fill 22 twelve week courses (for an initial contract of only 15 courses). Such was the operational control from We Are Digital that 13 of the 15 courses were booked in and up and running by November, running simultaneously, across more than 6 venues. Attendance continued to be high as the courses ran, with one class having to turn residents away, such was the demand. A large percentage of residents have also taken up the equipment incentive, paying a small weekly amount into a parallel bank account, which allows them to use ‘Pay Points’ across the cities in which they live, against the 50% cost of a laptop.

In January 2016, with the courses still 75% of the way through, the Housing Officer for Derby reported that 50% of her local group course (5 unemployed tenants) had found employment as a result of the training support. One of these participants, prior to attending the IT course, did not know how to go online and navigate securely but demonstrated that with her new skills she has been able to shop online, create a CV and secure work with the NHS. Metropolitan is now evaluating the project and looking to extend the contract in London, Cambridge and Leicestershire.

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