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Free online courses for those keen to learn during lockdown

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FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP
FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP   -   Copyright  FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP
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The UK government is encouraging people to use their time in lockdown to improve their digital skills.

It's launched a new online portal to provide a range of free courses, hoping the new education tools will better equip people to return to the workforce once the countrywide lockdown is lifted.

According to the government, The Skills Toolkit gives people access to digital and numeracy courses to help build skills, progress in work and boost job prospects.

“I know how difficult the recent months have been and the huge changes the coronavirus has brought on the daily lives of us all," said UK education minister Gavin Williamson.

“I want businesses to encourage their furloughed employees to use The Skills Toolkit to improve their knowledge, build their confidence and support their mental health so they have skills they need to succeed after the coronavirus outbreak.”

Big uptake

One of the education providers partnering with the government on the initiative is The Open University.

It says it’s seen a huge surge in web traffic with people looking for online courses.

“We offer almost 10,000 hours of free online content. So around about 1,000 courses. What we already saw, prior to the government post, at the beginning of lockdown was the visitation rates to our sites spike considerably,” said Simon Tindall, head of skills and innovation at The Open University.

“It’s all about trying to upskill or even just give recognition of people who want to reskill and get recognition of their existing skills and allowing them to be a little bit more job-worthy going forward.”

Free courses are available across a range of disciplines, with everything from website coding to digital marketing on offer. The course availability has been particularly shaped to give people skills employers may be looking for in a post-pandemic job market.

“93 per cent of all jobs that are advertised say they need some kind of digital skill," said Helen Milner, chief executive of the Good Things Foundation.

"So even if you don’t think you’re interested in doing a digital job or a job that will need a digital skill, you probably need to be able to download an online payslip for example, or use your company’s intranet or send some emails.

"So there’s definitely some digital skills that everybody needs. It’s not just for the geeks and the techies, this is now an essential skill for the workplace.”