South Westmeath Employment Education and Training Services (SWEETS) is a community services project located in rural Westmeath.
IT training is a core activity of SWEETS. This LEADER funded project facilitated SWEETS to upgrade its laptop equipment. The equipment facilitated SWEETS to deliver higher quality IT courses in a more effective learning environment. Improvements in training delivery aided better student experiences, learning and confidence building. SWEETS IT training is a vital service to the rural community supporting access and engagement with the modern digital world, bringing social and economic benefits to its local rural area.
Enhanced computer training classes
The new equipment has enhanced SWEETS existing suite of computer training courses. The laptops mean that courses are run more efficiently. Issues with slow laptops, different keyboard layouts or software versions is eliminated in classes using these machines.
Increased accessibility to IT training in rural areas
The project has successfully increased accessibility to IT training in rural areas. The new equipment has allowed SWEETS to accommodate bigger groups in computer classes. Small class sizes are important to SWEETS but classes that previously averaged around 8 people can now be increased to 10 or more.
Enhanced the organisation’s reputation and service delivery
The equipment upgrade has enabled SWEETS to provide learners with the most up to date IT hardware and software enhancing the organisation’s reputation and service delivery. Return clients are very important to SWEETS which enables growth of its market base. Clients who take beginner courses often move on to advanced courses. A positive initial experience is important to facilitate this.
Delivering adult education in IT with strong social and economic benefits
SWEETS has found adult education in IT has strong social benefits. It instils confidence so that people can effectively engage with and benefit from the contemporary digital world. Courses provide a social space for rural people combatting social isolation. IT training improves access to online services and markets for those suffering marginalisation caused by educational disadvantage and/or rural isolation. This project has assisted SWEETS sustain its current level of employees (3 full-time and 4 part-time). The organisation now has one full-time IT tutor. Previously this was staffed by two part-time roles.
Opening a route to new opportunities
IT training also has socio-economic benefits. It encourages the sharing of ideas and opens opportunities leading to growth in community activity and enterprise. SWEETS QQI computer courses are a stepping stone for people returning to education and/or wishing to pursue further education and training, as well as those seeking their first time occupation, to advance/up-skill in their current job or change jobs.
This project was supported as part of the LEADER Programme 2014-2020 under Theme 1 ‘Economic Development, Enterprise Development and Job Creation’ and Sub Theme ‘Broadband’. The Local Action Group is Westmeath LCDC and Implementing Partner Westmeath Community Development.