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Digital Technology: Training

Question for Department for Education

UIN HL11509, tabled on 15 December 2020

To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to introduce digital skills programmes targeted at unemployed elderly people.

Answered on

23 December 2020

The government recognises the importance of digital skills for employability and participation in society. This is why we introduced a legal entitlement in August 2020 for adults with no or low digital skills to study new Essential Digital Skills Qualifications (EDSQs) at entry level and level 1 for free. The digital entitlement mirrors the existing legal entitlements for English and maths and will provide adults with the digital skills needed for life and work. EDSQs are a new qualification type, based on new national standards for essential digital skills, designed to meet the diverse needs of adults with no or low digital skills. We also continue to support the provision of basic digital skills training for?adults in community learning settings through the Adult Education Budget.

In April 2020, we launched The Skills Toolkit, which packages up over 70 free, high quality courses from everyday maths and essential digital skills, to digital marketing and coding.

We have also introduced the Skills Bootcamps, which are free, flexible courses of up to 16 weeks, giving adults aged 19 and over the opportunity to build up sector-specific skills and fast-track to an interview with a local employer. In September 2020, these were launched in the West Midlands, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Liverpool City Region (including Halton, Knowsley, Sefton, St Helens and Wirral). They were initially focused on digital skills such as software development, digital marketing and data analytics. They will be extended to West Yorkshire, Devon, Somerset, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire in the new year. The bootcamps provide the valuable skills that employers need and are linked to job opportunities.

From April 2021, we will be investing a further £43 million through the National Skills Fund to extend Skills Bootcamps further in England. These bootcamps will cover not only digital skills but also technical skills training including welding, engineering and construction.

As part of the Lifetime Skills Guarantee, from April 2021 any adult aged 24 and over looking to achieve their first level 3 (which is equivalent to a technical certificate or diploma, or two full A levels) will be able to access a fully funded course. The offer includes a range of qualifications that are valuable across the economy in multiple sectors including digital skills.

From early 2021, to support older people to find work and build the skills they need to get into work, the Jobcentre Plus will provide a new online one-to-one job finding support service to those who have been unemployed for up to 13 weeks to increase their chances of finding employment.

We have launched Local Digital Skills Partnerships (DSPs) in seven trailblazer regions across England. Local DSPs bring together cross-sector regional and national partners to work collaboratively to upskill the current workforce, advance digital inclusion, and build thriving regional economies. Local DSPs have been playing an important role in the response to COVID-19, collaborating with local organisations and national partners to help individuals and businesses build digital skills and resilience, and support vulnerable groups gain access to digital devices and connectivity.

We have also delivered a £400,000 Digital Inclusion Innovation Fund to help older and disabled people acquire digital skills. The three pilots aimed to help ensure that ‘what works’ on digital inclusion is identified, replicated and scaled. One of the pilots, run by the Uttlesford Council for Voluntary Service in West Essex, has designed ‘smart homes’ where more ‘tech savvy’ older homeowners are trained by ‘digital boomers’ on how to use the technology that is added to their homes. This allows these older people to showcase how to use the technology within their own homes to their peers before they have their own homes made into a smart home. A full independent evaluation will be published soon to share learnings from this fund.