An exciting digital initiative is set to offer new hope and opportunities for Chippy youngsters, with Experience Chipping Norton (ECN) winning government funding for an innovative community project.
The not-for-profit town team has received Department of Communities and Local Government backing to establish a Community Digital Hub designed to engage, train and refocus young people in the area.
It is part of the £3.25 million Communities Fund, which will launch more than 50 local projects in the UK over the next 3 years.
The hub, to be known locally as OX7, will offer valuable expertise to 16 to 24-year-olds who have already left school and need a helping hand to get a job, find suitable training courses and connect with their community.
ECN will plug OX7 users into the town’s business and social community using its award-winning digital platform, which includes this website, multiple social media channels and the Chippy Means Business digital sponsorship scheme.
“What makes the digital hub unique is the fact that not only will these youngsters gain valuable life, digital and general workplace skills, they’ll be encouraged to use them within the safe, supportive context of a local town team”, says ECN Chairman Shaun Fagan.
“We’re here to support them every step of the way, offering them a range of great opportunities to play a real part in their community, help them get their lives back on track and become truly work-ready.”
How OX7 will work
ECN has secured funding to set up, implement and manage the Community Digital Hub in Chipping Norton over a two-year period, in conjunction with West Oxfordshire District Council (WODC).
Cllr Guy Wall said funding for OX7 was a coup for Chipping Norton youngsters and the broader business community.
“Hot on the heals of Chipping Norton’s success in the 2016 Great British High Street Awards, this is further recognition of ECN’s important role in the life of our town,” Cllr Wall said.
OX7 will offer digital, workplace and life skills to local youngsters aged 16-24 who are not currently engaged in education, employment or training.
Working closely with local schools, colleges and Government referral agencies, the scheme is designed to give access to essential training and employment support.
Barclays and NatWest banks are both backing the scheme by offering financial skills training, expert advice and mentorship, while Oxfordshire Apprenticeships is also on board. Oxfordshire Youth is providing valuable advice, support and resources.
Building on ECN’s success
Since its inception in 2013, ECN has strived to bring businesses, organisations and residents together to promote the interests of everyone in Chipping Norton.
The OX7 Community Digital Hub will take this concept to another level, enabling businesses to provide work placements and networking opportunities for job-ready young people who aren’t employed, or in education or training.
“The possibilities for youngsters using the hub are endless really”, Shaun says. “We need to get the scheme up and running, plug in local business and really start working the opportunities.
“It’s not just about digital skills. It’s really about restoring their pride, offering them some workplace essentials and giving them a reason to feel good about their life and their future.”
Chipping Norton is already a digital town. ECN steered Chippy to the finals of the Great British High Street of the Year Awards two years running, in 2015 and 2016.
Shaun Fagan also received a Special Recognition Award from Great British High Street organisers for his ‘Outstanding Contribution’ to the high street.
ECN is in the process of securing premises to house OX7, along with a key worker to engage, train and manage users of the scheme.
The OX7 Community Digital Hub will officially launch soon.