Work-based Learning Toolkit and Partnership Plans

Ignite IT, Lisburn, Northern Ireland

Who they are? Ignite IT is not just your standard IT support company.  Theirs is an adaptable and innovative approach and they keep service at the heart of everything they do.

What is the product? The Services offered by Ignite IT include: IT solutions and Education and Training.  They offer a host of courses aimed at the over 50+ market and community focussed courses also aimed at this group.  They also help business to make decisions about hardware purchases, software installations and keeping everything running smoothly.  They provide hardware and network support, IT support, business continuity & disaster recovery services, support plans and peace of mind in relation to IT matters.

Who is the target market?  The Education and Training service is aimed at businesses, small groups (50+ market) and private individuals whether clients are looking for certification, a skill boost on new technology or need an in-depth training programme. They have a training suite at their premises but also offer a mobile training suite meaning they can bring the classroom to the learner.

Identifying the need: Ken Callaghan owns and runs Ignite IT, he identified the opportunity for education and training courses aimed at the 50+ age group when he was helping his elderly mother to get to grips with the online world about 8 years ago.  These days Ken’s mum is very proficient at making online purchases and actually spends more time online than he does.  Initially Ken worked on a joint project with Belfast City Council to provide Age- friendly digital access training.   This training centred round learning how to use iPads/ tablets and going online.  The training was offered in two options; one off taster sessions or a series of 5-10 sessions of training.

Evolving the service: In more recent years, Ignite IT have been offering community based ‘Fix it Surgeries’ from community centres and in Belfast City Council facilities.  They are in the community centre for two hour slots and members of the public can come along with any equipment they are having problems with.  The most common problem at ‘Fix it surgeries’ is that the person has filled up the memory on their smart phone or tablet.  If the equipment needs a part they will order this and charge for it but the time and labour of fixing the equipment is not charged to the service user but instead to the Council or community group purchasing the service.

Challenges overcome: Ignite IT also ran a digital age project with which was lottery funded and initially  led  by the WEA (Workers Educational Association of NI). This was a long running and very successful project which ended abruptly after four years when the WEA in Northern Ireland closed down.  The other project partners were very keen to continue with the project due to the positive outcomes it was creating for participants.  The project involved conducting training via ten week courses held in residential care homes for the elderly.  They pro-actively approached a number of organisations and secured another partner ‘Linking Generations Northern Ireland’ who were delighted to lead the project.  The project was able to run its course for the remaining two years and went from strength to strength in in that time.  They produced a digital age toolkit – a very useful digital literacy course with an accessible learner card system aimed at private individuals in this age group or their trainers.

Benefits and Opportunities: Providing innovative IT services aimed at promoting digital inclusion has obvious benefits for members of the older generation.  The SME has also reaped the benefits of responding innovatively to the needs and opportunities presented by this market who are in need of training services tailored specifically to their particular needs and offered in an accessible way.  Ignite IT have developed a better understanding of the needs of this group and developed a niche for their business which has meant they have successfully secured a number of contracts from Councils and Community groups as well as business from private individuals from this market segment.  They are currently exploring a number of new opportunities to adapt their services to better meet the needs of the over 50s market.

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