Support Single Parents Acquire Digital Skills

by Anna Aprea in Reading, Berkshire, United Kingdom

We did it
On 18th September 2022 we successfully raised £235 with 9 supporters in 57 days

We are piloting our Digitial Skills Training programme before applying for funding. We will focus on 5-6 single parents in October 2022

by Anna Aprea in Reading, Berkshire, United Kingdom

About the Project

Time Gained is a functioning Virtual Assistant company that also provides work opportunities for people facing obstacles to finding employment (such as disability, autism, mental health issues, and/or other social problems). 

Recognising that to enter a modern workforce means acquiring digital and employability skills, we have devised a digital and administrative skills training programme we would like your help in piloting.

It is estimated that the cost of each supported-employee to Time Gained ranges between £800pcm and £2,000pcm, gradually diminishing as they become more independent and need less supervision. The fact that they are paid employees on a journey of self-development, is essential to the project. It is this realisation that led us to devise a more structured training programme which will benefit both supported-employees and Time Gained alike.

About the Pilot 

Although the training programmes will be open to anyone who has been unemployed for one year or longer, regardless of the obstacles they face, we have learned, over our first 10 months in business, that each cohort of individuals has different training needs. We have chosen to run this pilot, over two weeks in October 2022, for single parents as, between the pandemic and now the cost of living crisis, they are one of the social demographics in very great need of work. The CORE course, based on the government’s Essential Digital Skills Framework, together with selected modules from our own Administrative Assistant Training Programme, will be delivered through hybrid learning including self-study, role play and discussion groups.

Once proof of concept has been established, each CORE programme will run for 2 weeks and will focus on Essential Digital Skills, Customer Service and Communication Skills. Those who show a propensity for administrative skills will then be offered a position on the  Administrative Assistant Training Programme (2 months full time, up to a year part-time) which covers all Office/Google software as well as desktop design such as Canva, and website management with CMS platforms like WordPress.

£1,500 will allow us to pay our trainer to produce the two-week training content and run two focus groups with the cohort of single parents accepted on the pilot. £2,600 will out us to include a few one-to-one sessions with the parents to help them make better progress through their training and have access to training resources on an online platform well past the end of the training programme. £3,800 would allow us to also offer one-to-one CV and Application support in partnership with our partner charity Graft Thames Valley.

Please let us know if you are happy for us to send you an update about the project.

About Time Gained CIC

Since its launch as a Virtual Assistant company in September 2021, Time Gained has begun to introduce trainees to the work environment, helping them to upskill; it currently has two part-time supported employees. 

Its founder, Anna Aprea, was motivated by her own difficulty in returning to work after anorexia, despite having a very supportive family. She felt that she needed to do something for those less fortunate than herself. With that in mind, she became a trustee of Graft, for whom she runs highly successful training programmes (54% of trainees on the “Fusion” project found employment), and, inspired by her grandfather, and1659114193_granddad's_footsteps.jpeg following in his entrepreneurial footsteps (read his obituary for more information), she set up a Virtual Assistant company, with the objective of creating a fully functioning business that provides a supportive working environment for those returning to work or entering the job market for the first time.

Time Gained has also been the happy recipient of two grants since 2020. The first, a £1,000 start-up grant from the Lloyds Bank School for Social Entrepreneurs, and the second, more recently, a £5,000 grant from UnLtd which comes with excellent mentoring and training. 

About our work  

Digital skills are essential to meaningful employment in today’s economy. Governments are finally focusing on this gap, yet digital confidence is persistently low. In our experience, increased digital confidence is founded on a healthy and safe "practice" environment in which it is ok to make mistakes. We intend to provide this in two ways:  

  • First by delivering free training courses to those unemployed for one year or longer (our CORE Programme gives individuals basic digital and employability skills, and our Administrative Assistant Training Programme extends this training and covers all  essential software packages), and
  • Second, by providing paid work experience (particularly for those on the Administrative Assistant Training Programme).

Time Gained launched with an “open church” approach to trainees. There were no skills assessments or emotional strength assessments in place at the time of recruitment. This led to a number of very valuable lessons learned and to a greater use of signposting to prepare trainees before they are ready to make the shift to becoming paid employees.  

Our Impact

Through the work experience element of our programme, our trainees have a real opportunity to change their lives for the better. All our trainees, regardless of the time they stayed on the programme, reported being pleased to have joined and receiving a confidence boost in knowing that employment was indeed a real possibility for them. They felt they had learnt more about themselves through our approach to supervisory meetings and had a clearer understanding of the type of work best suited to them. However, for some trainees this meant the recognition that they had not progressed as far as necessary through their personal recovery process to cope with the demands of a busy office. Those who opted out of the programme all expressed a desire to return, and that the programme gives them hope of being able to turn their life around. Those still employed feel they have turned their life around.

What is a CIC? 

Community Interest Companies (CICs) are situated somewhere on the business/charity spectrum. In other words, they are both a company as we all know them, and an organisation with a strong commitment to giving back to the community. 

There are two ways in which we do this at Time Gained - one is by providing training and employment to the long-term unemployed, and the other is to impose an Asset Lock through which we will donate 65% of any profits made to Graft Thames Valley (Graft for short – our partner charity - see below for more information).    

About Graft Thames Valley - Our Partner Charity

Graft has been supporting individuals who face a number of barriers to employment for almost two decades. They operate on a case-by-case basis to respond to the specific needs of each of their clients. This ranges from light touch support if it is felt that some of the environmental and psychological challenges the individual faces need to be dealt with before they can focus on finding employment(through signposting to other organisations), all the way to intense one-to-one support, training and job searching support. 



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