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Our very own Charlie Mills stars in national Get Online Week campaign!

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Colleague, Charlie Mills, Connect hub advisor, is one of the new stars of a national campaign which aims to inspire people to get online and see what they could do with the internet.

Charlie, 35, from Lichfield, only recently learned how to use computers and the internet herself, and her new skills have helped her changed her life for the better. She wanted to help others to do the same and volunteered to take part in the campaign. 

Get Online Week (13-19 October) runs annually and sees thousands of local events take place up and down the country, advertised with local posters and leaflets. Each year, those adverts inspire around around 50,000 people to give the internet a go. Charlie couldn’t believe it when the organisers - Tinder Foundation - called her up and told her she was going to be one of their poster models, and then came round for a professional photoshoot!

She says: “I can’t believe I’m the face of a national campaign - I never for a moment thought I’d make it as a model! Fortunately they made the whole thing really simple and friendly. And I knew if I could inspire anyone else to get going with computers and the internet it was well worth it.” 

In fact, in her role as an apprentice, it’s now Charlie’s job to help others get online. But when she started out on a work placement with us just under two years ago, she didn’t know a thing about computers. 

“I knew literally nothing,” confirms Charlie.  “I could just about turn a computer on, but after that I’d be stuck. I’m not that old, but the thing is my generation still didn’t learn about computers at school, and I just never had the opportunity to learn since. When I got to Lichfield I’d just got out of a bad relationship, where at its worst I wasn’t even allowed out on the bus, let alone out on the internet!  When I knew it was part of the work placement I was terrified, but my manager introduced me to Bromford ‘s online centre and to Learn My Way - an online learning website. It was great!  I started out with the basics, and found I actually got on quite quickly.”

Pretty soon Charlie found that she was emailing, data inputting, and even writing documents on the computer. And it started to make the rest of her life easier too. She continues: “I did the Learn My Way course about internet banking, so now I’m paying all of my bills online, and looking after my money. Last year I booked my first holiday online too - we spent two weeks in Majorca and it was a bargain! My kids are 11 and 12, and at their school I found that loads of things happen online. I literally don’t know how I’d have kept up with it if I couldn’t use a computer! Now I can check and make sure they’re doing what they’re meant to. I’ve also got the confidence to help them and make sure they’re safe online, as well.

“If you’d have told me a few years ago that I’d be doing all these different things for myself - and doing them online - I literally wouldn’t have believed you. And I don’t think I’d have believed how much easier everything is on the internet, either. The fact is it really can make a difference to everyday life in so many ways, and now it’s part of my job to spread that message to other people.”

Helen Milner is Chief Executive of Tinder Foundation - the organisation behind the national network of UK online centres and the annual Get Online Week Campaign. She says: “People often think it’s only those over 60 who aren’t online, but Charlie’s story proves that simply isn’t true. What’s more, she’s in the best possible position to encourage others to follow in her footsteps because she can say from the heart ‘if I can do it, so can you’. That’s a pretty strong message for Get Online Week.  I’m inspired by Charlie’s journey, and I know people seeing her poster can’t fail to be inspired too.”

There are an estimated 11 million people in the UK like Charlie who don’t have the basic online skills to make the most of technology in everyday life. An estimated four million of those have never been online at all. 

If you want to see what you could do online, there’s Get Online Week events taking place across the West Midlands between 13 and 19 October. Call free on 0800 77 1234 to find one near you. 

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