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Kate Temple-Brown

The Opportunity Group

Founder & Client Director

Read more from Kate Temple-Brown

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How organisations can digitally upskill their way out of the crisis

The government’s upskilling programmes are undersubscribed, but it’s not too late to take advantage of the free training on offer.

It’s widely understood that furloughed staff cannot perform tasks or activities that make money or provide a service for their employer. Many employers and employees would appear to be less aware, however, that employees can undertake training to enhance their skills and knowledge. Not only does this have a huge benefit in terms of maintaining their motivation, but it also ensures that they continue to feel a valued member of the team in the process. Furthermore, much of the training available to employees is free or hugely subsidised for employers.

The opportunity to have cost-effective, low maintenance digital skills training for your employees during this time of massive change is surely worth considering. 

For instance, the government’s Department for Education (DfE) has funded short virtual digital skills bootcamps that last between four to 12 weeks and could digitally upskill employees to prepare for the new working world – and yet very few companies are taking up this opportunity. In this article I’d like to discuss this under utilised initiative and share how companies and their employees can take advantage of it, particularly in light of schools re-opening and as we count down to the end of lockdown in an increasingly competitive working environment.

A bumpy road ahead

The easing of lockdown is, for many people, lifting spirits – a light emerging at the end of the tunnel. The reality is that we now have a firm end date for the furlough employment support package and when that financial support is taken away it is widely accepted that there will be millions of people joining the already swelling ranks of the unemployed.

For the vast majority of L&D functions in UK organisations, it has been a hugely challenging year. They were already stretched and underfunded, with responsibility for preparing employees for the future workplace (which, by the way, is already here), responding to requests for digital skills training and specific programmes for new hires, to name just a few of their burgeoning learning challenges. As we head into what will undoubtedly be another tough period, L&D will need to become ever more resourceful to meet the demands it brings.

Government subsidised training from April

One of the best-kept secrets of furlough is that people who are on the scheme can still be trained. Apprentices can continue their learning programmes and in fact the Labour Party asked for it to be a mandatory activity during furlough in order to add value to the months that some people have been sitting at home.

You might be thinking, ‘I don’t have time to create a programme!’ You’ll be pleased to hear, therefore, that there are a number of government funded, predominantly digital skills-based programmes that are virtual and available to people who are currently employed. The DfE has just completed a pilot of four to eight week, fully funded digital skills courses that are available to anyone over the age of 19 that is unemployed, furloughed or employed. The criteria are based on location and the first wave was only in West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester but the second wave is nationwide and training started this month.

For those of you fortunate enough to be in the first wave regions, you can share it with your employees at no additional cost. The second wave will charge you 30% of training costs as an employer. These programmes are a brilliant way to support your furloughed employees and give them the digital skills they will need to either come back to your business, or be prepared for new opportunities when furlough ends.

As part of the Covid-19 recovery plan, there are government funded courses in data skills, coding, cyber and social media – all skills that will enable existing and new employees be more prepared for the digital transformation that Covid-19 has accelerated. In order to access these programmes, you just need to share the information of their existence and the registration process with your staff. Leveraging these government funded programmes may be a great foundation programme that you can roll out more widely with a view to adding specific technical capabilities after completion.  

Time to take advantage

These programmes have the capacity for thousands of adults to attend. Unfortunately, poor marketing and the significant number of distractions in the home – such as home schooling and yet another lockdown – have left them currently undersubscribed.

There is time to turn this around, however – after all, the opportunity to have cost-effective, low maintenance digital skills training for your employees during this time of massive change is surely worth considering.

Interested in this topic? Read Why flexible learning of critical skills is key to the UK’s economic recovery

One Response

  1. Make data-driven decisions.
    Make data-driven decisions. Use the testing and tuning of your students to evaluate learning programs to help you make the right decisions about what needs to be improved.

Author Profile Picture
Kate Temple-Brown

Founder & Client Director

Read more from Kate Temple-Brown

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