Adults key in to new era too

John Cairney

Frances Caple, a 50-year-old craft worker from Scalpay in the Western Isles, wanted to sell traditional knitted garments and Harris Tweed wall hangings and rugs. She hoped to use modern technology to market her products but lacked expertise.

Thanks to a scheme called Computers to U, run by the Western Isles adult guidance service and financed by Western Isles Enterprise, however, she was able to get free access to a computer and a tutor. She now has her own business and is in negotiations with the Hebridean Cottage website about featuring her products.

Others are also benefiting from the scheme. This year more than 60 were granted a short-term loan of the equipment at home.

Applicants must be aged at least 18, living in the Western Isles and enrolled on a course of study with a recognised training provider. The application needs to be supported by the course tutor, and computers are available to an individual for 12 weeks only.

Project administrator Briony Jones says the introduction of the European Computer Driving Licence has led to an increased demand for computer qualifications.

"Students receiving computers have been enrolled on a wide range of full-time, part-time and open learning courses at different levels," she says. "Demand for the computers continues to outstrip supply and it has not been necessary to advertise our scheme."

Ken Galloway, head of the Western Isles Careers Service, says: "The great benefit of this scheme is that it allows adults to become adept in the use of computers in the comfort of their own home without the prospect of embarrassment when in the company of younger and more skilled users.

"Adults who, in their earlier years, had no opportunity to grasp the basics of computers, have stated that without this project they would never have got started."

John Cairney

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