Family & Education

Coronavirus: Furloughed workers offered online skills training

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Image caption Free online job-related courses are being aimed at adults in the lockdown

Adults at home during the coronavirus lockdown, including millions furloughed from their jobs, are being offered free online courses in digital skills.

The Department for Education is launching a collection of job-related online courses, teaching numeracy, coding and internet skills.

The Open University and Google are among the providers.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said businesses should encourage staff to "boost their skills".

He urged furloughed employees to "improve their knowledge, build their confidence and support their mental health so they have skills they need to succeed after the coronavirus outbreak".

With uncertainty over the labour market in the months ahead, the adult training is focused on improving skills for online jobs, in the expectation that more people will be working remotely.

"Maths and digital skills are highly prized by employers," said Matthew Fell, chief policy director of the CBI business organisation.

The Skills Toolkit, on the government's website from Tuesday, is a collection of training resources to help people use the lockdown to acquire jobs skills for when more businesses reopen:

  • The Open University is providing courses on basic maths and how to write computer code
  • Futurelearn is offering courses in digital skills and producing online content
  • Google has a course in digital marketing
  • Digital-inclusion charity the Good Things Foundation has resources to help people get started online

Good Things Foundation chief executive Helen Milner said almost 12 million people in the UK were "without the essential digital skills for life and work".

The Open University says that it has already seen a "massive hike" in the numbers of people using its free online courses.

Mandy McDonagh, who is taking one of the Open University's fee-charging undergraduate courses, says she has used the lockdown as an opportunity to learn

"To be honest, despite the difficulty of concentrating, these studies have helped immensely for my sense of routine, purpose and self-belief.

"Out of this time of uncertainty I can still achieve something which I will be incredibly proud of," she says.

The Department for Education says the number of digital jobs is continuing to grow faster than in most employment sectors.

The online training during the lockdown is a preparation for the post-virus economy - with digital-related jobs expected to be more resilient than some other occupations.

Sir John Timpson, who chairs the Timpson retail group, warned on Monday there would be some High Street companies "that don't come back" after the pandemic.

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