The Government is ramping up its commitment to tackle the digital skills shortage by offering a series of free courses to thousands of people in an effort to help the one on five adults in the UK who have no or low basic digital skills. The new qualifications, unveiled by Apprenticeship and Skills Minister Anne Milton, will be based on what the Government calls new, "rigorous" national standards and will be available for free to anyone over the age of 19 from 2020.
They have been designed to help adults learn the essential skills, such as sending emails, completing online forms or using a tablet, that many people take for granted.
Research shows that digital skills have become as important in getting a job and being part of society as English and Maths, and an estimated 90% of all jobs in the next 20 years will require some form of digital knowledge.
The new offer will comprise a range of digital skills qualifications, that will meet new conditions and requirements set by independent exams regulator Ofqual. In addition there will be new digital functional skills qualifications, available from 2021, that will support progression into employment or further education and develop skills for everyday life.
Milton said: "Being online is more important than ever and yet one in five adults in the UK don’t have the basic digital skills that many of us take for granted. This is cutting many people off from so many opportunities – from accessing new jobs, further study and being able to stay in touch with friends and family.
"The new ‘essential digital skills’ qualifications will give adults the chance to develop a whole host of new skills to help get ahead in work, but also to improve their quality of life overall."
In response, Vodafone UK general counsel and external affairs director Helen Lamprell said: "We welcome the Government’s new initiative to help adults develop basic digital skills that are vital in today’s digital world. Knowing how to do things like use a smartphone or navigate the internet safely is essential not just in the workplace, but also in everyday life."
By keeping people connected to their family and friends, technology can help to tackle issues such as loneliness among the over 50s. That’s why this year Vodafone launched ’techconnect’, a UK-wide programme of free masterclasses to help people learn digital skills like how to set up a smartphone, get started on social media and use wearable tech. With the help of digital devices, more people can live independently for longer."