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The government has announced it will be offering free digital skills training to UK adults who do not have relevant digital qualifications.
As part of the scheme, government-funded digital skills training will be offered to adults to help them learn the digital skills needed to properly participate in modern society.
Funding for the training will be drawn from the existing adult education budget and courses will be provided by colleges and other facilities across the UK that are already providing education to adults.
The 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. However, too many people struggle to get by, with more than 10 million adults in England lacking the basic digital skills they need.”
There is currently a skills divide in the UK whereby millions do not have digital skills and 5.8 million people have not used the internet at all, which is costing the economy approximately £63bn a year.
As a result, many who lack the basic skills needed to use technology are missing out on jobs, and many firms are avoiding adopting new technologies due to a lack of skilled workers.
The UK’s computing curriculum, announced in 2014, aimed to bridge the skills gap by making it mandatory to teach coding and computational thinking to children between the ages of five and 16.
But more needs to be done to upskill the older generation. Research by Go ON UK and Ipsos Mori found 10 million adults in the UK lack basic digital skills, and that those in lower socio-economic groups are more likely to suffer from a lack of skills than those who are wealthier.
It was found 35% of those in the UK in a lower socio-economic group were likely to lack basic digital skills, whereas only 13% of those who are more privileged are lacking in tech knowledge.
The older generation is also more likely to need help, with more than half of people over the age of 65 lacking the basic digital skills needed to use devices or browse the internet.
Those who lack the appropriate digital skills are not only missing out on jobs, but it is also costing them savings elsewhere, such as their weekly shop.
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.”
As part of the government’s push to increase digital skills in the UK, proposals for free digital skills training will be drawn up over the next few months and included in the amended Digital Economy Bill.
The hope is that by equipping the UK public with the skills needed to properly use technology, adults will be able to gain access to jobs more easily, and will help the UK to become one of the most digitally skilled nations in the world.