In Wales, digital skills needed for the new economy lag behind the rest of the UK with marginalised groups including young people, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers experiencing numerous issues and barriers which affect their digital communications skills.
By providing digital skills development training for individuals and organisations in Swansea, the PEDALS project (Programme for Elevating Digital and Language Skills) addressed the challenges faced by marginalised members within the community and improved the lives of the people who live and work in the city.
Using a wide range of Arts and Humanities expertise the PEDALS project worked to meet the different needs of the community and fostered knowledge exchange, workplace development, public engagement whilst also improving links with industry.
Targeted at start-ups, social enterprises and the voluntary sector who often lack financial resources to upskill and marginalised learners, the project focused on four key areas of community support:
1. Digital Skills in the Workplace
The project helped start-ups, social enterprises and not-for-profit groups in the Swansea area enhance the digital communications skills of their workforce.
In collaboration with digital media consultants Seren Global Media - who delivered a series of short CPD work-based training modules focused on social media skills, website structuring, digital writing and digital graphics - Swansea University students undertook digital media placements with local organisations and implemented a range of digital communication outputs.
2. Digital Skills through Filmmaking
In Collaboration with the Centre for Heritage Research and Training (CHART), Taliesin Arts Centre, Leonard Cheshire, and Gower College Swansea, the project provided training in communication through film, photography and animation to enhance digital literacy and skills among 16–18-year-olds who are students on the Independent Living Skills course at Gower College.
Students worked with a team of professional artists and filmmakers to create their own documentary film about Swansea, past, present and future. They undertook a range of site visits to explore heritage, industry and environmental innovation, including the Algae Biorefinery at Vale Nickel Refinery, which is part of the RICE project (Reducing Industrial Carbon Emissions).
The training in digital technology aimed to help develop young people’s confidence, digital skills and civic attachment.
3. Language and Teaching Skills
Led by the English Language Training Services (ELTS) team at Swansea University's Academy for Academic Success (SAAS) and utilising connections and partnerships with local community groups and charities, the project addressed language barriers to employment.
Free accredited English language classes were provided for beginner-intermediate level learners in order to help them integrate more easily into the community and more effectively into further education, training and work.
The classes were delivered online allowing learners who would not normally be able to access regular classes because of caring responsibilities, travel, etc., to take part.
4. Refugee Employment Skills Support
In collaboration with Unity in Diversity and the Welsh Refugee Council, training was provided to prepare refugees and asylum seekers for work. The workshops aimed to tackle cultural barriers to employment and linguistic and digital exclusion, with participants introduced to local organisations that supported employment. The training took place over two full days, with transport reimbursement and on-site childcare provided to remove barriers to participation. A follow-up session with Careers Wales was organised, connecting attendees to a local sustainable source of support.
The work of PEDALS contributed to making a more equal, cohesive and resilient society and supported Swansea’s status as a City of Sanctuary.
The project has already seen a number of successes:
- 8 organisations signed up for the Digital Skills in the Workplace programme;
- 9 learners completed the Language and Teaching Skills programme whilst 2 volunteer newly qualified teachers further developed their professional practice;
- 26 participants received Refugee Employment Skills support.
The project now hopes to:
- test the potential for large projects to target Shared Prosperity Funding;
- build partnerships to scale up work;
- develop a platform for digital and communication skills to demonstrate value of Arts and Humanities expertise in upskilling individuals, communities and businesses across the region