Google has announced it is to extend its Digital Garage initiative in Sheffield until April 2018.
Launched for a six-month run in April 2017, Google’s facility is the latest in a series of temporary high-street training centres designed to help individuals and businesses tune up their computer skills free of charge – helping to plug the nation’s digital skills gap in the process.
Alina Dimofte, head of Digital Skills Policy at Google UK, said: “Since the opening of the Sheffield Google Digital Garage back in April, we’ve helped thousands of local people, from all walks of life, learn essential digital skills.
“We’ve helped young people looking to upskill and be able to apply for more and better jobs as well as experienced workers looking to make a change in their careers. We’ve even welcomed two centenarians who wanted to take their first steps online and who’ve sent their first email from the Garage!
“We were also impressed by the fantastic innovation and entrepreneurial spirit the city has to offer and helped many local business owners learn how to navigate the digital world more effectively, grow their customer base and boost their bottom lines.”
Other cities, including Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow and Manchester, have hosted Google Digital Garages, but this extension means that Sheffield will be the first city to host one for a full year.
“Sheffield was the first Garage actually on the high street and the results have been really amazing. We’re now training over 1,000 people a week,” said Ms Dimofte.
“Given its unique high-street location, the Sheffield Garage has been a tremendous success and we’re thrilled to boost investment and keep it open for a full year – a first for us since starting the programme over two years ago. We’ll continue to be open seven days a week until April 2018 and look forward to meeting more inspiring people that are keen to learn.”
There have been a few changes to the programme since it was first piloted in Leeds in 2015. Google has tripled the amount of training courses on offer and has broadened their range; it still helps with online marketing and digital skills for business, but is now also doing a lot more with digital newcomers and those who need to top up their skills for a rapidly evolving workplace.
The initiative has drawn praise from many quarters. Louise Haigh, MP for Sheffield Heeley and Shadow Policing Minister, said: “It’s really good news for Sheffield that Google have extended their Digital Garage for another six months to deliver skills and training for the people and businesses of Sheffield.
“Equipping people with the skills that jobs now and in the future require is so important to our economy and I’ve been pleased to work with Google to support their work here in Sheffield.”
How successful the initiative will be in fulfilling its mission to plug the nation’s digital skills gap remains to be seen, but the first concrete indications look set to become known in December, when Google unveils the results of an impact study it has commissioned from market research company IPSOS.