IO1: Focus group in Lancaster, UK

The Lancaster and Morecambe College conducted their focus group for the Digital @ Youthwork project on the 1st of November, 2019. The experience had two trainers, two youth workers and ten young people.

LMC invited representatives from a local youth organisation to attend this focus group. We asked two of their youth workers to participate and to bring with them a selection of their youth service users to discuss a range of issues relating to digital skills and their future career aspirations. The young people ranged from the age of 17 to 20 and were all attending the youth centre for informal training and activities. They had a diverse range of educational backgrounds including two young people who were planning to attend university in the future, four who were currently studying level 3 qualifications and four who had left formal education at 18yrs old and were currently seeking employment.

This focus group was conducted as an open conversation with the facilitators guiding the discussions and posing specific questions to the group. These questions included some of the questions included in the primary research surveys as well as follow on questions to explore participant’s responses in more detail. Participants were given a selection of handout sheets for them to record their answers and share with the group.

It started with the facilitators explaining the rationale behind the Digital@YouthWork project and the value of the focus group activity. The facilitators then explained the format and ground rules of the focus group to ensure all participants were clear on the format and process. The group then moved onto introductions and icebreakers to make all participants feel comfortable and confident enough to speak to the group.

After the initial introduction were complete the facilitators began the discussion regarding digital skills and competencies. The facilitators worked their way through a selection of pre-prepared questions and asked all participants to provide their responses and record them on the handouts provided. The facilitators guided the discussion through the pre-prepared questions but as the participants were quite engaged the discussions progressed onto other topics relating to digital competencies and education/career opportunities in the local area. The focus group lasted just over 2 hours and all participants contributed to a lively conversation.  

The findings of this focus group generally supported the findings from our primary research surveys. We found that the participants have a variety of digital skills but are lacking the more advanced digital skills. Our participants were interested in all of the most demanded digital skills but felt that in their experience Graphic and Media design, Digital Media and Web Design would be the most useful practical competencies they could have.

All participants said that they found it somewhat difficult to access training for advanced digital skills, mainly due to limited opportunities and financial restrictions. They felt that their only opportunities came from going to university to undertake a degree level course.

All participants also felt that a combination of face to face and online training was the best way for them to learn. They felt that the best way to learn is via hands on practical activities so they can learn by doing.  Interestingly, all participants felt that more advanced digital skills can seem quite daunting and they feel put off by technical jargon and the costs of the hardware and software required for many of the digital skills we discussed.

This focus group served as an opportunity to expand on the primary research surveys and explore the more qualitative details of participant’s answers. It was a valuable exercise that enabled the facilitators to gain a deeper understanding of the participants understanding and experiences of digital competencies. We will incorporate the findings from this focus group into the next stages of the project. The consortium will be developing learning content for six digital competency modules.  

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