Government to offer free training in basic digital skills for adults

The Government has announced plans to offer free courses in basic digital skills for adults in the UK lacking relevant qualifications.

The proposals, to be included in an amendment to the Digital Economy Bill, will mean publicly-funded basic digital skills training to upskill Britain’s workforce.

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This is part of the Government’s ambition for the UK to keep up with digital advancements and compete economically on the world stage.

Courses will be delivered by colleges and other adult education providers, and training will be funded from the existing Adult Education Budget.

Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Karen Bradley said: “In today’s digital economy, being able to use modern technology and navigate the Internet should be considered as important as English and Maths.

“But too many people struggle to get by, with more than ten million adults in England lacking the basic digital skills they need.

We will make sure all adults who need it can receive free training in digital skills to equip them for the modern world.”

Courses will be delivered by colleges and other adult education providers, and training will be funded from the existing Adult Education Budget.

Ministers have previously warned the government, industry and education institutions to take urgent action to tackle the UK’s skills crisis.

An ONS survey shows that 12.6 million adults lack basic digital skills and estimated 5.3 million people in the UK have never used the internet.

A recent report by Ipsos Mori/Go ON UK found that 35 per cent of people in lower socio-economic groups lack basic digital skills, compared with 13 per cent of those in higher socio-economic groups.

Age is another factor preventing people benefitting from services such as banking, shopping and government tools which are increasingly moving online. Just 43 per cent of over 65s have basic digital skills, compared to 93 per cent of 15 to 24 year olds.

Skills Minister Robert Halfon said: “We are committed to making sure that everyone, regardless of age or background has the digital skills they need to enjoy the benefits of modern technology. Whether it’s applying for a job, accessing vital services or as consumers, our world is increasingly moving online and we don’t want anyone left behind.”

“Our reforms will mean that people who lack basic digital skills will get the training they need to get on the ladder of opportunity for the jobs of the future.”

The Barclays Digital Development Index benchmarked 10 countries around the world on their readiness to compete in the digital economy.

The study, which attributes an overarching ‘digital empowerment’ score to each nation, found that the UK came in just fourth place behind new and emerging ‘digital tiger’ economies Estonia, South Korea and Sweden.

Ashok Vaswani, CEO of Barclays warned that inadequate investment would leave Britain businesses exposed to digitals skills.

He said: “The digital revolution is having a profound effect on our lives by dramatically changing the way we live and work and interact with one another. Although in many ways this is empowering, it can also be challenging, because it requires people and businesses to acquire, retain and consistently develop new skills and understanding to truly benefit.

“Together with government, businesses and society as a whole, we need to raise our sights beyond basic inclusion and aim to create a Britain of true digital confidence at all levels of the workforce. We are at a tipping point when it comes to digital skills and the UK must act now to ensure we are not left behind.”


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