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TSSG uses Smartphones to help the longterm unemployed get work

By 3rd May 2013 No Comments

App project to provide work-based training here next month

STAFF working in companies here will be able to up-skill on the job using a loaned tablet computer and a ground-breaking app developed by technology experts in Waterford.

The app is already being used by a group of long-term unemployed in Wales, men and women who have accessed videos of interview tips, confidence building techniques and training under the technology and training partnership between Waterford Institute of Technology’s (WIT) Telecommunications Software & Systems Group (TSSG) and Pembrokeshire College and Gower College Swansea, Wales.

Plans have been announced to expand the mCommunity initiative into Ireland next month to help SMEs provide on-the-job training and upskilling for staff. SMEs based in or close to Waterford will be the first here to benefit from the initiative.

The project is a three year Interreg 4A Ireland Wales Programme that has identified a new and effective way to engage with the unemployed and provide the SME sector with tailored training. mCommunity also provides a social network for learners, allowing candidates to communicate freely with tutors and support one another.

The roll out to Ireland will include the partners running a free, Level 3 Award in Leadership and Management in Waterford. Participants will get the loan of an android tablet computer whilst on the program. The course will involve a number of days of classroom delivery in the Waterford area in late May and then the rest will be delivered on the mCommunity app by tutors via the loaned device over a number of months.

Those behind the initiative are now looking for SME’s, particularly in the Waterford area, to avail of this opportunity. It is hoped that up to 8 participants from SME’s will then take part in the programme. To take part, interested SME’s should contact the project management team now on the following link: http://mcommunity.pembrokeshire.ac.uk/eligibility-3/business/leadership-and-management-award/

The mCommunity technology has been completely developed at the TSSG group in Waterford and is being rolled out successfully using experienced tutors with project partners in Wales. The project has developed an innovative learning platform aimed at adults not currently in employment, education or training.

Learners in Wales have been provided with a smartphone from which they can access course modules with topics ranging from confidence-building to interview techniques. The courses aim to improve employment potential and opportunities through education.

The technology is also being used to supply accredited courses to SME’s and their staff from both Pembrokeshire and Gower College Swansea. The programmes are structured to allow learners to continue in full-time employment whilst studying part-time via a mobile device. This provides greater flexibility over how, where, and when learners achieve their qualification.

Sean Lyons, Project Manager, TSSG said: “When we were approached to collaborate with Pembrokeshire College on this project, we realised that the technical requirements would be challenging. The platform had to be very user friendly, allowing users to choose preferred communication channels, whether it’s Instant Messaging or via Social Media. It also had to integrate with Moodle; WIT’s’ virtual learning application.

“Research and development is all about collaboration with partners both nationally and internationally. We are very proud of the significant contribution that we are making to the project, the feedback has been excellent and we are confident of seeing the very positive results continue”, Lyons added.

A flexible, multi-faceted communication and virtual learning platform was developed and built into mCommunity which is now tackling the problems of social disengagement. The app includes a job interview video module which provides a variety of video clips showing interview techniques, hints and tips.

Learners can access these and interact with tutors for feedback using instant messaging. Learners progress week by week until they have completed each section of their agreed individual learning plan.

Course Tutors are a combination of both social worker and educator. Tutors meet learners at social centres, where they engage with candidates before providing them with a Smartphone. Through the mCommunity portal, tutors can specifically craft a module to suit the needs of an individual learner. They have full control over the type of education modules each learner receives on their phone. mCommunity also provides a social network for learners, allowing candidates to communicate freely with tutors and support for one another.

According to Caroline Griffiths, Project Manager, Pembrokeshire College:“This innovative educational programme is providing users with the knowledge they need to re-engage with society and rejoin the workforce using technology that is accessible, personal, and most importantly mobile.”

A critical component was the installation of a “presence” function in its instant messaging structure. This enables tutors to see when learners are on-line and monitor how they are using and engaging with the platform.

“Tutors become the gatekeeper for mCommunity – they ensure that the platform is used correctly and to its full potential,” she said.

Further information on the initiative is available on http://mcommunity.pembrokeshire.ac.uk/eligibility-3/business/leadership-and-management-award/