Bridging the digital divide: Digital inclusion is still a significant barrier for UK jobseekers, how do we tackle it?

Jobs 22

Digital poverty remains a huge barrier for jobseekers, and it's an issue that has been intensified by the pandemic.

In March 2020, only 51 per cent of households earning between £6,000 to £10,000 had home internet access, compared with 99 per cent of households with an income over £40,000. And shockingly, 22 per cent of the population do not have basic digital skills to use the internet effectively. When you look at those figures it's clear that digital inclusion is a vital issue for organisations working in this space. To date, Jobs 22 has funded devices for more than 500 participants, helping them to get online and, with our support, start applying for jobs.

Employment coach, Nichola Carrington from Jobs 22's Milton Keynes office worked with William, who had several barriers to getting back into work, including improving his digital skills and getting online. Before receiving help from Jobs 22, William had been using the local library for internet access and it had been an experience fraught with frustration.

He said: “When Nichola said Jobs 22 could get me a tablet and a dongle with free internet for a year, I didn't hold out much hope, I've heard promises in the past, and you don't expect people to come through for you. But Jobs 22 did, and it's made such a difference being able to get online. I asked Nichola if I'd have to pay for it or give it back, and she said no, this is all part of the service, and it will continue to help you when you're at work. I was taken aback by that."

William was supported by Jobs 22's Health and Wellness team, focusing on confidence building techniques. He directly attributes his successful return to work to Jobs 22's support and working with Nichola and Health Coach, Daniella.

He added: “I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be where I am now without the support I’ve had from Jobs 22 and Nichola and Daniella. It was a different way of working, this is the most help I’ve ever had, and it’s made a real difference to me.”

Nichola noted that William's story is not uncommon. She said: "We meet with a lot of people who struggle with digital applications. Getting online is essential to job searching and when you've got an out of date CV and lack the means or the skills to update it, that can be an overwhelming and stressful experience.

"It seems so basic but you'd be surprised how many people are in this boat, and how a little help can feel like such a monumental thing because in a fast paced world, has anyone taken the time to show them how to do upload a CV or access a smartphone app? Things many of us take for granted.

"I believe that levelling the digital playing field is possible through addressing gaps in understanding about the digital divide and the specific challenges communities and individuals face. Our local networks and the teams on the ground give us unique insight into specific issues around digital access.

"There's a massive opportunity to use technology to engage our participants, whether that's through the Jobs 22 App, or through the provision of tablets and smartphones to assist their job searches. There's also so much fantastic work being done by our teams signposting participants to specialist local partners they trust to support them and can help them gain the digital skills they need, in a environment that feels safe and free from judgement."

To find out more about how Jobs 22 are tackling digital inequality in towns and cities throughout the East Midlands download our guide: A digital-first approach to meeting jobseeker needs.