Digital skills boost for all women in Oxfordshire

Women across Oxfordshire will soon be able to take advantage of a new training programme and set of tailor-made workshops on how to develop their digital know-how for using superfast broadband to support their business career.

Oxfordshire County Council and BT’s ‘Better Broadband for Oxfordshire’ project has been awarded Government money to fund workshops in market towns throughout the county. Women will be targeted across four categories:

  1. Women who currently run successful businesses (small business women)
  2. Budding female entrepreneurs who wish to start-up a business
  3. Women keen on returning to the workplace (mothers / carers)
  4. Women who are looking to improve their digital skills for personal development.

The Women and Broadband Challenge Fund run by the Government Equalities Office, aims to promote digital skills and build confidence among women wishing to start-up and grow their own business, including those based at home.

The £72,250 will fund a series of tailor-made workshops over a six-month period for women-led businesses and potential female entrepreneurs. These will offer practical support to women wishing to develop or improve their digital skills or even help set up a business whilst gaining support from existing women’s business networks.

As part of the Women and Broadband project being delivered over the next six months, Oxfordshire County Council will also launch the training programme, ‘Digital Mums’ for women keen on returning to work, but who also have caring responsibilities. Digital Mums is a regional adaptation of the successful London-based programme and will be targeted at women who have previous marketing experience and aspire to be a Social Media Marketing Manager. Initially ten mothers will benefit from the programme and will receive training at home to support their return to the workplace. All ten women will be given a mentor, work experience and support in finding employment that they can do from home.

Oxfordshire County Council successfully bid for this additional funding in competition with other Local Authorities across the country. It was only one out of a few applicants to receive the Women and Broadband Challenge Fund from the Government Equalities Office.

Who will benefit?

The aim is that around 400 women across Oxfordshire will benefit throughout the six-month programme. Workshops will begin at the end of September 2015 and will be held in eight market towns where superfast broadband has already been delivered through the Better Broadband for Oxfordshire programme. Towns being considered include: Ardington, Banbury, Bicester, Burford, Carterton, Chipping Norton, Henley-on-Thames, Thame, Wantage, Watlington and Witney.

Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet member for Business and Customer Services Councillor Nick Carter said: “This initiative will help to empower women entrepreneurs across the county to use digital technology to either start up a business or help grow their existing business online. Our workshops and ‘Digital Mums’ initiative will provide vital support to women wishing to harness the benefits of the next generation broadband which is being rolled out via the Oxfordshire Better Broadband Programme. We see new infrastructure as a key driver of economic growth, so we’re delighted to have won this funding to develop digital skills among Oxfordshire’s businesswomen.”

Oxfordshire County Council’s Better Broadband for Oxfordshire programme, in partnership with BT, has so far given more than 55,000 Oxfordshire homes and businesses access to superfast broadband.

The council will be working closely with women's enterprise groups in Oxfordshire including: WIRE, South Oxfordshire, Oxfordshire Women’s Forum and the Athena Network to ensure that female entrepreneurs are aware and encouraged to express their interest.

Minister for Women, Equalities and Family Justice Caroline Dinenage said:

“The government is doing more than ever before to ensure that women have equality in the workplace. “I am delighted to hear that Oxford has been awarded funding, so more female entrepreneurs can take advantage of superfast broadband.

“If women set up businesses at the same rate as men there would be 1 million more female entrepreneurs – I hope that this fund helps women in Oxford to take their first step into the business world.”

Nicci Campbell, who runs the Angel Cake Company in Dorchester, benefited from the first programme

"I was a complete Luddite. I had no idea how to use digital technology until I went to the project launch conference in the autumn. Over the next few months, I went to sessions on using Facebook, blogging and understanding Google Analytics.

“It has made a tremendous difference to our business, helping us grow by 60%. We are now looking to expand and hope the new programme can help us reach the next level.”

Women interested in attending a workshop are asked to express their interest by sending an email to: broadband@oxfordshire.gov.uk , ensuring they add ‘Women & Broadband (WAB) - Interest to Register’ in the subject header of their email.

Women interested in the Digital Mums training programme are asked to send an email to: broadband@oxfordshire.gov.uk , ensuring they add ‘Women & Broadband (WAB) - Digital Mums, Interest to Register’ in the subject header of their email.

For residents and businesses interested in receiving updates from the Better Broadband for Oxfordshire programme, please register via this website: www.betterbroadbandoxfordshire.org.uk