Portsmouth leads the way in digital education with plans to close the digital gap and up-skill the whole city, with new first-of-its-kind programme

The city is pioneering a programme to improve digital skills as an innovative new initiative is launched.

The Portsmouth Education Partnership (PEP) has teamed up with Primary Goal to improve the digital skills of people in the city and close the digital education gap.

The Digital Champion Programme will allow young people and adults to undertake apprenticeships in a range of digital areas, positively impacting the future of the city.

The aim of the programme, which is part of the Portsmouth Digital City Project, is to improve people’s digital skills and to ensure people of all backgrounds are competent to excel in jobs with a strong digital skill set.

It was launched on January 10 after Portsmouth was named in September last year as one of 12 new priority investment areas for digital skills in the UK, meaning it needed to improve the overall outcomes across the city.

It is being headed up by Gemma Gwilliam, who is the head of digital learning, education and innovation at PEP and Louise Salmon, who is the CEO of Primary Goal.

The two women, who have extensive experience in education and STEM themselves, are hoping that the programme will improve the city’s status as a priority investment area and that it will have a domino effect on the way people learn and work in Portsmouth.

Louise said: ‘This programme will have a positive knock-on effect on people across the city for years to come, adults and children will be more prepared for the digital future. It will open doors for young people and adults who undertake training through our apprenticeships, whilst improving their digital skills, it will allow parents to be better equipped in teaching their children digital skills and it will benefit businesses by giving current and future employees a stronger digital skillset. It will up-skill the whole city across commercial business and education. I am confident the impact of the programme will benefit all areas for years to come.’

Gemma said: ‘As the digital world develops, we’re going to see more and more jobs created that have never existed before, so it’s important that we ensure that children are competent going into these jobs and that they have the skills to excel in them.

‘It’s even things like giving people the skills to help prevent cyber-attacks that could cost companies millions. The ripple effect of this programme will hopefully be huge and will not only allow us to close our digital divide, but it will also boost the economy of the city.’

Portsmouth is leading the way with the programme, being the first city in the UK to implement anything like it, with more priority investment areas in talks with Louise and Gemma to follow suit.

Anyone who undertakes a digital apprenticeship with Primary Goal will become a Digital Champion and will be able to enhance their existing skills set within their current or new job.

Each Digital Champion will positively impact more than 500 people.

Louise is also encouraging businesses to do their bit to support not only this programme, but to support all businesses and educational establishments nationwide.

Louise said: ‘Businesses who have a pay bill of over £3 million automatically begin to pay an apprenticeship tax, which then goes into the apprenticeship levy fund. If that’s not used within the set time frame, that money will go to the treasury. £770million went unused last year and went to the treasury. I encourage all businesses to either use their pot directly and upskill people through apprenticeships, which will benefit the employee as well as the business itself or alternatively, they can gift some of their levy pot to schools or other businesses to use towards upskilling their staff through our digital, cyber or ICT apprenticeships. I urge everyone to make contact to have a chat’

Gemma and Louise have both been nominated for an Inspirational Women of Portsmouth Award by Pamodzi Creatives off the back of their work and will find out if they will be a recipient at a ceremony on International Women’s Day in March.

The ladies said: ‘We would both like to thank Sandra Wilkie, workforce development officer (apprenticeships), Matt Johnson, the head teacher at Copnor Primary, Lauren Delday, head of business development and Mark Bedford, head of delivery at Primary Goal, Mike Stoneman, deputy director, education, children, families and education, and all staff within Portsmouth Education Partnership. They have all been fundamental in the process and without them it wouldn’t have been possible.’

Anyone interested in becoming a Digital Champion within Portsmouth should contact Gemma at ggwilliam@copnorprimary.co.uk or external to Portsmouth Lauren Delday at lauren.delday@primarygoal.ac.uk

Any businesses looking to support the upskilling of digital and cyber skills should contact Louise at louise.salmon@primarygoal.ac.uk