How does a company founded in a Silicon Valley get to Leeds Dock? We arrived there this week by understanding that the benefits of the Internet and digital technology are not the privilege of a select few, but are transforming businesses from all parts of the economy and all parts of the country.
Google has long been committed to getting British businesses online. So much so that our programmes, Getting British Business Online and Google Juice Bars have already helped 250,000 UK SMEs become digital businesses. Today we are announcing that we will do even more in the UK by committing to digital skills training for 200,000 small businesses by 2016 through Google’s Digital Garages.
Google’s search engine helps businesses connect with customers, and is an engine of growth for UK businesses. For instance, Roy Powell from Blinds R Us started his business in Leeds back in 1986. It supplies and fits made-to-measure blinds. He told us that without Google+ and Google Maps, customers would not know about him and his business. Google has helped Roy grow his customer base well beyond his traditional reach of Leeds.
Blinds R Us is an example of the power of the Internet for small businesses. In his report, Growing Your Business, Lord Young reported that small businesses with a strong web presence grow more than twice as quickly as those without. But we know that many businesses have yet to reach the full potential that digital offers and that any need a turbo charge.
To address this, Google is launching The Digital Garage, a multi-million pound programme that will provide digital skills training to 200,000 SMEs both online and in person at pop-up training venues across the UK.
Digital Garages will be based in the heart of local communities, where residents will be able to learn how to use the power of the Internet to reach beyond their traditional markets and find new customers well beyond their traditional boundaries.
Google cannot deliver a programme of this scale alone. So to reach the widest number of participants, we have been working nationally and locally with organisations including the CBI, FSB, Chamber of Commerce and LEPs. Our first Digital Garage, The Leeds Garage will open to the public for six months beginning March 30th offering courses, one-to-one mentoring sessions, Code Clubs and much more.
In addition to skilling the businesses of today, we’re keen to nurture future talent. With funding from Google.org we are investing in computer science training for more than 25,000 Leeds teachers in partnership with Code Club Pro, Computing at Schools (CAS) and Raspberry Pi. Workshops and events for teachers will be held at Digital Garages and in local schools. Google will likewise offer online training resources and donate Raspberry Pis for use in classrooms.
Our vision is simple: businesses of all sizes stand to benefit from the transformative power of the digital era. It is Google’s responsibility, as both a catalyst and an engine for growth, to help individual businesses prosper, and the UK economy grow.
Posted by Eileen Naughton, Managing Director of Google UK and Ireland