The University of Portsmouth is leading a new multi-million euro project to improve the employment rates of women from disadvantaged backgrounds by boosting their digital skills and knowledge.
The project, known as PONToon (Partnership Opportunities using New Technologies fostering sOcial and ecOnomic inclusioN), will tackle the digital skills shortage that currently exists in the UK and France. It will target socially excluded women who are disadvantaged by their gender and who face challenges such as single parenthood and mental health issues.
PONToon will focus on developing a free digital toolkit that will help upskill women by improving their digital competencies and providing them with the necessary digital skills to access the labour market.
The various tools, which will be available on the project's online platform, will include virtual reality interviews, webinars and bespoke computer game experiences, where the game scenarios aim to engage and train users on basic and advanced ICT skills, social media usage and other digital skills. These novel forms of training are often found to be more engaging and effective than traditional methods and will help socially excluded women gain relevant employability skills.
The tools will be co-created and developed by women who currently face barriers to accessing digital technology. Through developing the tools they will learn additional entrepreneurial skills on idea development, data creation and project management.
The toolkit will then be shared with service providers, job centres and local authorities enabling them to offer a more engaging and complete training offer to women. The tools developed by PONToon will help train 1,600 women and will see in excess of 400 participants in employment as a direct result of the training.
The project is being led by the University's Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries.
Professor Joan Farrer, Associate Dean (Enterprise and Innovation) of the Faculty, said: "Our world today is becoming increasingly reliant on digital technology. For a lot of disadvantaged women there is a lack of training available to help them understand and use this technology.
"By using cross-border expertise, this project will provide engaging ways of teaching women how to use this technology. This will mean that what may seem like small tasks, such as writing a CV or using Google maps to find an interview, become easier. These skills will play an important role in helping these women find a job.
"We are also very proud to be one of the recipients of this funding, which will have significant impact in France and the UK."
PONToon is a 3.5 year cross-border project with 11 partners from the UK and France taking part (five from France and six from the UK). The total project budget is 5.8 million euros with 69 per cent funded by the Interreg France (Channel) England programme, representing a European Regional Development Fund contribution of 4m euros. The University will receive €1.5 million funding.
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