A project to help people on Teesside get online was launched at the Riverside Stadium last week with the help of MFC Foundation. With the advent of the Universal Credit and the push for this to be almost exclusively online there is an urgent need for the less resourced of the population to have access to the skills and facilities.
Former Boro star and BBC Tees expert analyst Craig Hignett was host of the “Go on Boro” event, which featured guest speakers including Andy McDonald Middlesbrough’s new MP, Iain Sim, Chief Executive Officer of Coast & Country Housing, and Mike Hopkins, Principal of Middlesbrough College.
The project, which is also supported by the Professional Footballers Association and Unionlearn, is designed to increase digital training and extend the number of places at which people can obtain online support, such as libraries and shops.
Attendees were asked to become “digital champions” alongside Craig and former Boro goalkeeping great, Jim Platt. Also speaking at the event was Stockton’s own Osher Williams, a former Boro apprentice who went to Man U and then Stockport County and is now Assistant Education Officer at the Professional Footballers Association. It was Osher that Jim Platt had to turn to when he needed to learn how to use a PC and log on for his work with the MFC Former Players Association. Jim had to be shown where the On/Off button was in his first lesson. He can now tweet and skype and knows all the jargon and maintained if he can learn this then everyone can.
More than 32,000 adults in Middlesbrough alone have never used the internet, and in Stockton more than 5,000 children do not have internet access at home.
As Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald pointed out increasingly government benefits will be paid out online only and with almost 80 per cent of jobs requiring basic IT skills and almost 90 per cent of vacancies now advertised online, this is a problem that Go on Boro is attempting to overcome.