As part of our inquiry, Google extended an invitation for us to visit their Digital Garage at Manchester Central Library to see first-hand what work industry are doing to provide training and support to individuals and businesses with digital skills. We visited on Thursday 3 March.
Google operates the Digital Garage and Digital Garage Online Academy for small businesses in the UK. This is part of their initiative to train up to 200,000 businesses in digital skills by the end of 2016. Their programme provides free face-to-face training and tutorials in digital skills such as website creation, web analytics and social media to small businesses, entrepreneurs, students and the voluntary sector, helping to improve their digital ways of working.
The Digital Garage opened in Manchester on 1 December 2015 and provided free seminar training and one to one mentoring sessions in digital skills to small businesses and individuals in the Greater Manchester area. Regular seminars were held at Manchester Central Library and staff were available for one to one bespoke mentoring. The Digital Garage team had also visited neighbouring towns, including Bolton, Chorlton and Didsbury. Nearly 2,000 people had received training in Manchester. As the digital garage moved from town to town, the Manchester Digital Garage closed on 31 March 2016.
The Digital Garage in Manchester was part of a national commitment to train small businesses in the digital skills they need to succeed. The Digital Garage initiative has so far helped train over 21,000 people both in physical digital garages in Leeds, Birmingham and Manchester, but has also toured Belford, Caerphilly and Cheltenham, as well as running an online academy. Google works with local and national partners to deliver this programme. National partners include Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and charitable organisations such as Code Club, MediaTrust, Raspberry Pi and Technology Trust.
During our visit, we were able to witness first hand, digital skills training in the community. We also met with representatives from Hive Manchester and Code Club North West to discuss the digital skills agenda. We discussed the value of computational thinking and collaborative working where the new computing curriculum could be applied to other subject areas and projects. Hive Manchester and Code Club provided us with background on the work that they do, linking informal learning approaches through the use of clubs and competitions to stimulate children’s interest in computing.
Through the Digital Garage project, Google has funded Code Club Pro to train 200 hundred teachers to teach the new primary curriculum in computing and Raspberry Pi to train a further 750 teachers across the country through ‘Picademies’ aimed at pupils studying computing at Key Stages 3 and 4.
We also attended a training session, “Reach new customers online”, delivered by Google’s Manchester Digital Garage. Over 40 people attended the session, which includes advice on Search Engine Optimisation, using social media effectively and analysing online activity. We heard from participants including a manager of a small marketing agency, a cleaning business owner who receives a third of business online and wanted to expand further, an amateur artist who had recently been made redundant and was keen to turn her interest into a revenue stream, and a new entrepreneur who was just starting a clothing business and wanted initial advice.
People who attended the session had heard about it from a variety of sources: through media stories, personal referrals, from the Library directly and referred by their job centre advisor. Research conducted by the IPPR North in November 2015, found that after training and support at the Digital Garage:
We would like to thanks the staff at Digital Garage Manchester for accommodating our fact-finding visit as part of our inquiry.
179 IPPR North, The Digital Garage from Google – an independent evaluation (November 2015)
10 June 2016