Improving Employability in Scotland

November 2017

Improving Employability in Scotland

09 Nov 2017

Action for Children

Action for Children is one of the organisations developing a Digital Reach programme. Action for Children's pilot will digitise their current paper-based content across three employability programmes in severely deprived urban areas of Scotland.


This is a guest blog from Jo Ogilvie, Product Manager at Action for Children

2 minute read


The Action for Children employability programme offers vocational training designed to support young people from difficult backgrounds in entering the workplace.

Service centres provide social and emotional support as well as practical skills development and cover topics from basic literacy and numeracy to industry specific training like construction and hospitality.

It has been acknowledged that workplaces are increasingly digital, meaning the way we deliver this training requires a new approach.


Digital Reach

Digital Reach is a pioneering new initiative supported by Nominet Trust that is providing funding to 6 pilots testing new ways to deliver digital skills for the most disadvantaged and hard to reach young people in the UK.

Twelve organisations across the UK are involved in developing and implementing these pilots including Action for ChildrenUK Youth, Home-Start and #techmums, Children’s Society, Wales Co-operative and Carers Trust.

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Improving our outreach

Our objective is to design a platform that will support the current service, which is currently conducted on a face-to-face basis in the classroom. We aim to build an online facility, which our young people can use to complete their currently handwritten coursework, and create the ability to work remotely where required.

We hope to improve the provision of this service for the young people who currently attend, and also make taking part in the programme possible for young people who live in harder to reach areas.

Identifying the problem space

To kick off our research, we began by looking at the problem space.

We started by asking our users about:

  • which apps and websites they use
  • existing pain points
  • what they enjoy the most about their coursework and why
  •  how they communicate with each other (e.g. email, Facebook, Snapchat)
  • how they felt during classroom sessions
  • future solutions/ideas for how they would like to work.

By incorporating design thinking practices into our research, we start to explore the problem space and develop a shared understanding of the solution.

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We have found that:

  • music helps with focus and concentration
  • the young people used exclusively apps not websites
  • at least some offline functionality is required (young people on the programme don’t always have access to WiFi)
  • service centres are not centrally located, so there is a desire to be able to work from alternative locations
  • whilst they enjoy the practical elements of their courses, they couldn’t always see the practical purpose.

There was a desire for more support in learning how to build an online CV and fill out online job applications.

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Exploring the problem space

We also spoke to service managers and we found that focus isn’t the only benefit of having access to music throughout the day. A big part of their job is to mentor the young people and help with any personal matters which might be hindering their learning.
“Music helps with anonymity”, one of them said. Background noise helps those who feel shy or nervous about speaking out to the wider group feel more comfortable about speaking up.

Next steps

It goes without saying, we will conduct user research throughout the project to make sure we are getting it right with our young people, and develop prototypes to give them something physical to test and feedback on.
We will also work closely with our service leads to look at legacy content, making sure we capture all aspects of current coursework and identify any gaps.

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