A Belfast recruitment company has helped people from disadvantaged communities find jobs and learn vital digital skills during the Covid-19 crisis.
Graffiti Recruitment based at Innovation Factory on the Springfield Road helped more than 70 people into employment and trained 120 digital champions to enable their wider community to get online during the pandemic.
Managing Director Julie McGrath recognised that the lockdown and its aftermath was having a devastating impact on people in deprived areas who had little access to digital services.
She said: “We are bringing digital skills to those most at need, helping people complete online CVs to improve their employability and our digital champions are making a massive difference to the community, helping us to reach those that most need it. They are assisting vulnerable people in accessing social media and online foodbank services, downloading apps or setting up new devices.”
So far, the team at Graffiti has worked with individuals and groups such as St Peter’s Youth Club, Corpus Christi Youth Club, Cliftonville Community Regeneration Forum and Let Youth Lead to make their communities more digitally aware.
Among those helped to find employment was West Belfast man, Sean McKeever, who completed the CV and Cover letter workshop with Graffiti Recruitment after being made redundant at the end of April.
He said: “I had been working as a barman since I left school 15 years ago and I never needed a CV as other family members worked in the bar too. I learned how to highlight my skills showing qualities that are important to all employers such as digital skills and communication and how to properly format a CV, so it looks professional. I'm pleased to say that I am now working as a delivery driver and having this information helped me through the online application process.”
Joseph McKeating from Ardoyne is using the skills gained from attending courses run by Graffiti Recruitment at Innovation Factory to help others. Joseph and his fellow Ardoyne man Eamonn Marley are among 30 digital champions working with CCRF (Cliftonville Community Regeneration Forum) using the skills they have acquired to pass on to the community and find work.
Joseph said: “With my new digital skills I managed to secure a new part time job immediately but I'm now down to the interview stages with two other organisations - Northern Ireland Fire Service and the Irish Army. I never thought I would be able to have a job like that as it was always just a dream but completing these courses has improved my confidence and raised my ambitions.”
Later this month CCRF will launch a Digital Drop-in Centre to help more people searching for jobs, applying for benefits and provide access to home schooling in one of Northern Ireland’s most deprived areas.
Fiona Hamilton, a Youth Worker with CCRF, is one of those behind setting up this new community hub. “Attending the Digital Champion workshops has helped our organisation look at other ways we can support our community. With a lot of services moved online we are setting up workshops and a digital drop-in centre supported by our digital champions. The aim is to help people get online and improve their digital skills. Hopefully, we will be able to create more digital champions within the community and it will have a knock-on effect with improved digital confidence overall,” she said
Shane Smith, Community Engagement Manager at Innovation Factory, said Graffiti Recruitment provided a vital service at the height of lockdown and is continuing to work to bridge the digital divide.
“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 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.
It is also working with Business in the Community to deliver programmes in association with Age NI to improve skills for those over 50. These will include an introduction to social media and how to find jobs through social media.
The company 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/