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East Midlands Chamber News

New scheme to boost digital skills of autistic individuals and women


A pioneering project to equip autistic individuals and women who want to get back into work with digital skills they need to find a job has been launched, funded by the Government’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport’s Digital Innovation Fund.


The D2N2 Skills Academy offers a series of free, four-day training programmes to participants across Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, running during June, July, September and October 2019.


A similar digital project – targeted at different audiences – will also shortly be available to individuals across the Sheffield City Region (SCR).


Led by Nottingham City Council, a range of local organisations are joining forces to deliver the programmes, including Autism East Midlands, the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership, East Midlands Chamber (Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire), the University of Derby, Nottingham Trent University and the University of Nottingham.


Its aim is to encourage under-represented groups across the D2N2 area to get the skills they need for a career in the digital sector.


It has been set up exclusively to help autistic individuals and women (aged 18 and over), particularly those returning to work after a period of absence, out of work or looking for another job.


Those taking part can choose from one of five different training themes, each aimed at helping them to become more digitally savvy to boost their career prospects.


Each subject area comprises four free training sessions, spread over a four-week period, designed to teach the skills required to become work-ready for a job in the digital sector. Each course set is delivered by experienced, industry-leading experts. Digital Graduate buddies, provided by the universities, will provide practical support, guidance and mentoring at each of the training sessions.


The subjects available are web development, digital marketing, data visualisation and cyber security, along with digital essentials, which covers basic digital skills including getting the most out of a range of devices, applications and the cloud.


At the end of each course, those attending will receive a certificate of attainment, along with a comprehensive workbook that can be used as a reference guide for the future.


The programme of support will continue for some attendees, with a selection chosen to complete work placements in local businesses where they can use their newly learned skills. And it is hoped that through the programme support and the engagement with the business community that a handful of attendees will secure long term work as a result.


Rachel Quinn, Skills lead at D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership said: “Digital Skills are becoming an essential part of our workforce with over 80% of advertised vacancies having a digital element.


“By working collaboratively with our partners and supporting people with barriers to work, to digitally upskill, we are benefiting both our economy and a more inclusive local economy.”


Mathew Orford, Director of Adult Services at Autism East Midlands, said: "It is fantastic that this project recognises that autistic individuals are underrepresented in the workforce and often possess the ability and potential to thrive in this sector.


“Many autistic individuals struggle in mainstream education settings and may, therefore, not achieve the qualifications required in order to secure employment in the digital sector, despite having the aptitude and desire to do so. Through this project we hope to play a part in helping these individuals build their confidence to fulfil their dreams and make an ongoing impact on society."


Diane Beresford, Deputy Chief Executive at the Chamber, said: “The Chamber’s stated aim is to enhance East Midlands businesses and communities, so we are delighted to be involved with this cutting-edge project.


“The digital agenda is evolving all the time, so equipping autistic individuals and women who have been out of employment for a long time with the skills they need to forge a new career in this fast-growing sector is key.”


Further details about the D2N2 Digital Skills Academy can be found at www.emc-dnl.co.uk/digitalacademy.


Alternatively, call 0333 320 0333 ext2153 and speak to Vicki Thompson for more information. To contact Autism East Midlands directly, call Angela Gardner on 01909 506678 or email enquiries@autismeastmidlands.org.uk.