Recruitment company provides digital skills to people affected by pandemic

A Belfast recruitment company has provided vital digital services to hundreds of people in urgent need during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Based at Innovation Factory, Graffiti Recruitment Managing Director Julie McGrath said they quickly recognised that the impact of the lockdown was magnified by those with little access to digital services.

They moved immediately to help bring digital skills to those most at need. Their support included helping people complete online CVs to improve their employability, resulting in 70 finding temporary jobs as drivers and support workers.

Then to dramatically increase support to the community, they trained 120 ‘digital champions’ to help vulnerable people shielding from the pandemic, lacking basic online skills to access benefits or universal credit and cope with food shortages and isolation.

She said: “Our digital champions made a massive difference to the community, helping us to reach those that most needed it. They provided support by assisting vulnerable people in areas such as accessing social media and online foodbank services, downloading apps or setting up new devices.”

An example of someone who received support was a North Belfast woman whose husband had died and whose daughter now lives in the US.

 “She has no relatives left in Belfast. We were able to help her with digital services including how to download an App to connect her to her daughter in America, a vital contact during four months of lockdown. Now she can speak regularly to her daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren,” said Julie.

Graffiti Recruitment is involved in the ‘Make it Click’ project run by the Good Things Foundation, funded and supported by Google.org and BT Skills For Tomorrow to promote digital inclusion.

“The world has changed. Digital skills are a universal need and those who don’t have it will be hit harder by the pandemic. The aim is to get everyone online. It won’t happen overnight. The digital divide is only going to get bigger as the socially deprived have less access to laptops or other online devices,” Julie added.

Shane Smith, Community Engagement Manager at Innovation Factory, said Graffiti Recruitment provided a vital service at the height of lockdown.

“Covid-19 really exposed the digital skills gap in the community. Graffiti acted quickly to address the new reality, providing online digital services for beginners and helping to tackle loneliness and isolation felt by hundreds of vulnerable people,” he said.

Innovation Factory is owned by Belfast City Council and operated on their behalf by Oxford Innovation. The £9.1m business hub was funded by Belfast City Council and Invest NI with support from the European Regional Development Fund.

Customers include a range of start-ups and growing businesses in a variety of sectors including digital services, creative industries, business services, financial services and research and development.

Graffiti Recruitment is continuing to offer free assisted digital skills training on a range of subjects which will help people get online and make the most of the digital tools modern life increasingly depends on. For more information call 0330 2233 047.

For more information on the Innovation Factory visit: https://www.innovationfactoryni.com/

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