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Northern Ireland invests £1.7m in online learning

Package of online skills interventions aimed at people who have been affected by the coronavirus

People in Northern Ireland whose jobs have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic will get access to online courses as the government pumps £1.7m into a range of online skills interventions.

The funding will be used to create almost 2,000 free places on fully accredited short online learning courses delivered by colleges and universities.

Announcing the funding, economy minister Diane Dodds said that because many people and businesses had been “deeply affected” by the economic impact of the pandemic, “it is vital, in the short term, that we provide opportunities for individuals which will support them in finding new employment, or boost the potential of their businesses when they return to work”.

She added: “Northern Ireland employers have long reported skills gaps in areas such as digital skills, English, mathematics and the employability skills crucial for effective engagement in the workplace. This funding will enable people to gain these skills and help them to re-engage with the labour market with new pathways to higher-level qualifications.”

In response to the huge strain and demand on the health and social care sector during the pandemic, courses will also be available for people who want to start a career in the sector.

“Covid-19 has also brought into sharp focus those working in the health and social care sector and the need to ensure that we have a sufficient supply of appropriately skilled workers to meet the demand,” said Dodds. “With these reskilling opportunities available through these short-term courses, there is the potential for workers directly affected by the economic impact of Covid-19 to embark on a new career in this essential and rewarding service.”

The courses will be delivered entirely online and will be flexible, so people can fit them around their schedule. The courses include an accredited qualification and will be complete by 30 November 2020.

While some companies, such as Amazon, have had to recruit 100,000 extra workers to cope with the coronavirus-induced online shopping surge, most have been struggling during the pandemic.

In April, the UK government launched an online platform to help businesses that are struggling financially because of the pandemic.

Read more about coronavirus, technology and jobs

Earlier that month, the government also extended its coronavirus loan scheme to all viable small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that were facing financial difficulty during the crisis.

Under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans Scheme, companies with a turnover of up to £45m can apply for a loan of up to £5m, which will be interest-free for a year, with the risk underwritten by HM Treasury.

Meanwhile, furloughed workers have become targets for cyber criminals, with malicious Microsoft Excel files masquerading as CV attachments sent under the subject lines “applying for a job” or “regarding job” luring victims who are out of work.

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