‘Believe in Yourself and Don’t Give Up!’ Two Portsmouth Women Changing Lives

Image courtesy of PONToon Project, University of Portsmouth.

In the second piece of his three part series on the University of Portsmouth’s local technology training project for women, PONToon, Community Reporter Andrew Larder speaks to the team about the project, its progress and local reactions to the training so far. 

The PONToon project – which stands for Partnership Opportunities using New Technologies fostering sOcial and ecOnomic inclusion – delivers digital and technology training to women aged 18 to 35 years in the city. You can find out more about the aims of the project in the first article of my series on the PONToon Festival, a series of free employment workshops run in August. 

I met up with two of the Pontoon Project’s ambassadors, Hollie and Louise, before the Festival to ask them about the project. 

Hollie and Louise met at a low point in both of their personal lives during a visit to the PONToon project at Aspex Gallery. In a workshop, they made digital prints using a microscope and tried out a variety of the activities on offer from the team. As a result of the day at Aspex, they were both invited on a trip to France and could not believe their luck. Both women were soon at a business centre in France learning about interview skills and taking part in workshops.

When the opportunity later arose for Hollie and Louise to become ambassadors for PONToon, they both put themselves forward, telling organisers that the project’s workshops had given them the confidence to do so. 

Hollie said, ‘We understand what some women are going through as we have been there ourselves.’

The two women’s mantra has become: ‘Believe in yourself and don’t give up!’

Louise said they see themselves as ‘a bridge between the community, Pontoon and the University, we are looking to empower women.’

The ambassadors are on a mission, Louise said, to ‘reach out [and] build a rapport and trust so the project can engage with other women who have not had the opportunity.’

Hollie and Louise spread the word about the project in local community centres, and mother and baby groups. They attend meetings held by support groups such as Solent Recovery, Pushing Change and other local rehab groups. They have even set up a stall in the Jobcentre to make contact with young women. Their enthusiasm and tenacity has helped more than 40 women sign up for Pontoon workshops.

Maureen Frost,Chief Executive of Hampshire Chamber of Commerce, believes the training being offered through PONtoon is vital for local women facing additional barriers to employment.

She said, ‘Technology is everywhere in the workplace and without the knowledge and confidence in using a variety of platforms it can be very daunting. From email platforms to HR portals for recording holiday and from databases to electronic meeting scheduling without the right training and support people can quickly be left behind in this ever changing environment.’

Cllr Steve Pitt, Cabinet Member for Culture and City Development, highlighted the importance of the project to the city.

‘In today’s economy, being able to use digital technology is essential. Innovative and well-targeted projects like this are a very important part of the support we need to give local people who aren’t able to make the most of the employment opportunities out there.’

Further Reading

PONToon website

Portsmouth City Council’s courses to help people gain IT skills at The Learning Place

The Good Things Foundation free online training on using a computer, browsing the web, sending an email and finding work online 

Read more of Andrew’s series on PONToon

Star & Crescent, PONToon Project Offers Employment Workshops for Wome

This story is part of our ongoing series from our #ReclaimTheNews team, a group of local residents trained in investigative journalism in partnership with The Centre for Investigative Journalism. The group now forms S&C’s Community Reporting team. Check back regularly for more news from the team and help us to spread the word by sharing their articles with your friends and networks.