By 2030, 3 million employed women in the UK are at risk of having their jobs replaced by automation and a further 1-4 million people may face a need to transition across occupations or skill sets to remain employed.
Evidence shows that mothers in particular are often trapped in low-skilled, low-income roles most at risk of automation due in part to the “motherhood penalty” which impacts pay, hiring and perceived competence. Our research shows that one in four mothers won’t apply for a role due to outdated skills and one in five mothers have been turned down for a role for the same reason. Research, including our own original research, demonstrates that mothers face specific barriers to engaging in formal learning which further exacerbates this issue stating they don’t have the time, headspace, finances or confidence to learn new skills.
We set up Digital Mums to support mothers to tackle some of these challenges and to learn in flexible and enjoyable ways with the goal of finding flexible, rewarding employment. We offer a range of online learning options with a focus on digital skills.
We were supported by the CareerTech Challenge programme to deliver our existing Future Skills Bootcamp to mothers whose roles are most at risk of automation.
Our Future Skills Bootcamp is a 10-week online programme offering 50 hours of learning delivered through a project/enquiry-based learning model with students working on a real business challenge with their peers in small groups. Project/enquiry-based pedagogies are not commonly utilised in adult learning environments and we were keen to test whether this learning model could work for women within the eligible cohort. Given the growing trend towards self-paced courses in online adult learning, we were keen to understand the learner experience of our project-based learning model that provides a more personalised, structured and supportive learning experience.
We were specifically looking to deliver impact on areas such as learner confidence, digital confidence and career adaptability. We ran three cohorts across 12 months (Bootcamp A, B & C).
Learner engagement and learner confidence
1301 learners were awarded a free place on our Future Skills Bootcamp and 937 of these fit the programme criteria. Our completion rates for all enrolled learners averaged around 30 per cent but the completion rate for learners that actively engaged with the course in week one was far higher, ranging from 69-86 per cent for the eligible learners in our second and third cohorts.
We carried out a survey with learners at the end of Bootcamp C which showed that 75 per cent of students confirmed feeling more confident about learning in general and 71 per cent felt more confident about learning online with lots of positive qualitative feedback provided.
“Online learning has given me the boost and confidence to learn and more importantly want to learn and push myself out of my comfort zone”Learner
At the end of the Bootcamps A and B, 164 students registered for additional courses to add further digital skills, with several now on their third or fourth course with us (it’s too early to include the data on this for Bootcamp C).
Improved confidence, motivation and self-esteem
We used the General Self Efficacy scale to understand the impact we had on learner confidence, motivation and self-esteem. The data revealed our Future Skills Bootcamp had an impact. This was also evidenced in the qualitative feedback we collected. The Bootcamp gave learners a real confidence boost and left them feeling more optimistic about the future, particularly those that were made redundant due to the pandemic.
“I arrived to this feeling very low and out of work, and I am now feeling energised and optimistic”Learner
Digital confidence and competence
We used the Digital Competency and Digital Confidence scales to understand our impact here. Again we saw a huge impact and improvement in this area.
“I feel like I could take on new tools and technology now with my growth mindset rather than sticking to what I know”Learner
Improved career adaptability
We used the Career Adapt-Abilities Scale-Short Form scale and saw participants experiencing an increase in this area and empowered learners to take more control over their career. Interestingly, age had a mediating factor on changes in Career Adaptability with those aged between 35-65 years experiencing higher changes than those aged 25-34 years.
“I can’t wait to help my manager improve her business and share my new skills and knowledge that I have learnt”Learner
Improved creativity skills
The data revealed that there was a positive impact on participant’s creativity. Creativity is a key employability soft skill and one of the least likely to be replaced by automation so we were particularly interested in impacting learners in this area. Again, this was echoed in the qualitative research mainly around enhanced problem-solving elements of creativity.
“I feel that I have learnt new problem solving skills and suggested we use Trello at work to collaborate on a project which my manager said is a brilliant idea!”Learner
The pandemic threw significant challenges our way. We had planned on recruiting significant numbers of learners from partnerships with businesses to access their employees, particularly for our final cohort. With HR teams fire fighting redundancies and furlough and with teams based at home and uncontactable from landlines we had to give up on this strategy. This meant we had to focus on direct to customer routes without a pre-planned budget. We managed to just about achieve our recruitment targets, finding success with digital advertising methods predominantly through targeted Facebook advertising.
Recruiting mothers to participate in a course that took 4-5 hours a week over 10 weeks when they were home schooling was also a challenge particularly given their main barriers in a normal world are lack of time and headspace!
We are hoping to reinvigorate our business plan to work directly with businesses to train their staff on the Future Skills Bootcamp next year, particularly given the strong impact evidence we have across measures we know are important to businesses - building in-demand skills and confidence. We are also considering participating in future grant opportunities to reach more disadvantaged women.
To find out more about Digital Mums:
Twitter handle: @DigitalMumsHQ