Our partner Stichting Lezen en Schrijven (Reading & Writing Foundation) is a Dutch non-profit organisation committed to reducing and preventing low literacy in The Netherlands. They have pioneered a dual and comprehensive approach to tackle literacy and digital literacy at once through a nationwide network and innovative methodologies. They have been closely cooperating with the Dutch government, and conducting and sharing research, knowledge and good practices on this topic. With grant support from DigiCo, they run Digital Upskilling 4 Work, a 10-week basic digital skills training project. Through Digital Upskilling 4 Work, they empower people with low literacy skills in The Netherlands by digitally upskilling them to enhance their chances of finding and retaining work, as well as for social inclusion.
In this first pilot stage of Digital Upskilling 4 Work, the Reading & Writing Foundation partnered with social and sheltered employment companies because they employ a large group of people who face difficulties in joining the regular workforce. In these companies, people with a distance to the labour market and with low literacy and digital literacy levels are employed in a safe environment and are guided towards finding full-time employment with a regular employer, in turn advocating for an inclusive labour market. Together with their learning partner SBCM, the Knowledge Centre and Labour Market & Training Fund for Social Employment, they selected five medium-sized social and sheltered employment companies across The Netherlands to participate in the pilot.
The Digital Upskilling 4 Work project tackles the urgent need to upskill and reskill this low-literate workforce. Other beneficiaries are long-term unemployed individuals who want to re-integrate into the labour market and Status holders. This training helps students get the basic digital skills needed to accomplish their tasks inside the sheltered employment companies. Its objective is to provide the knowledge and confidence to have further opportunities in the labour market. After the training, they can better participate digitally at work and in society.
Digital Upskilling 4 Work’s training method and materials consider the level of language skills and are convenient for everyday life and work. The Foundation puts a lot of effort into ensuring appropriate training and tools for individuals with low literacy. For example, they developed the online instrument Digimeter to test digital skills regardless of whether a person can read. Third-party training companies such as Bworkz and Het Werkwoord provide digital skills training.
Digital Upskilling 4 Work is offered in-house in the companies to easily monitor progress. It adopts a comprehensive approach to training, taking into consideration the entire ecosystem that surrounds the trained students. For this, it emphasises the pre-training awareness raising and acceptance of managers and also adopts a strong post-training monitoring and evaluation framework.
At the start of the training, learners are screened with Digimeter. The instrument positions the student within the Dutch Framework of digital skills, largely corresponding with the five competence areas of the European Digital Competence Framework. It provides a good indication of someone’s digital learning needs in combination with language and numeric assessment tools. To have a sustainable approach and focus on the long-term impact, they train team managers, supervisors or HR to use the Digimeter to assess the level of their employees, so this becomes general practice once the project is over.
Once a level indication is clear, employees are suggested tailored learning pathways that match their digital skills level through a Menu Card. Each Menu Card provides 3 to 4 learning tracks which mix classical, online and blended learning. The curriculum reflects the needs of people who have difficulty in reading, which means it is different from a traditional digital literacy curriculum. On average, a learning track will take ten weeks to complete, including training hours and online self-practice.
On top of training students, the Foundation and its learning partner train the sheltered employment companies’ staff on how to motivate employees to work on their digital skills. This way, they raise awareness at the management level over the benefits for both employers and employees of digitally upskilling and creating a culture supportive of lifelong learning.
Inclusion opportunities increase efficiency on the work floor, boost productivity and prepare the workforce for the future in this digitalised society. Like the Reading and Writing Foundation, DigiCo believes that an enabling learning environment on the work floor is essential: a positive and safe environment where workers can develop digital skills, combined with the necessary language and numeric skills, without feeling ashamed for lacking these. Employers play a key role in this, not only in providing the opportunity to take part in training but especially in making sure workers feel confident and encouraged to take this step and develop themselves.
Digital Upskilling 4 Work runs from September 2022 to July 2023 as a pilot project. So far:
- 144 people completed the 10-week training,
- It trained staff from five different social and sheltered companies across The Netherlands.
This year, all five companies started their second batch of Digital Upskilling 4 Work training and one new sheltered employment company joined the initiative.
Looking at the outcomes of the project, after participating in the lessons participants needed significantly less help with undertaking tasks on the Internet. The evaluation shows that 3 out of 4 participants indicated that they have become more digitally skilled and would like to learn more about using a computer, tablet or smartphone.
These are some of their reviews:
- “I dare a little more. This is reflected in using Internet banking.”
- “At work, I can now work with the printer. I can also use the professional language app and search for information on the Internet.”
- “Now that I know a little more about safe internet, I can also help my family better.”
Contact DigiCo at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to learn more about our partnership schemes.