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Adults to be offered free digital skills courses

New 'essential digital skills' qualifications will be available from 2020, skills minister Anne Milton announces

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Adults with no or few digital skills are to be given access to a new suite of free courses, apprenticeship and skills minister Anne Milton has announced.

The new offer, unveiled today, will comprise a range of new "essential digital skills" qualifications, which will be available from 2020, as well as digital functional skills qualifications, which are planned to be taught from 2021.

The courses will be designed to support progression into employment or further education and develop skills for everyday life. According to the government, one in five adults has no or few basic digital skills.

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New entitlements

The announcement of the new entitlement for free digital qualifications follows a 12-week consultation, which closed in January. A list of the eligible qualifications has not yet been revealed, but the Department for Education said it would be released “in advance of introducing the entitlement in 2020”.

“In order that we fund only those adults who do not have secure basic digital skills, we plan to require providers to implement an initial assessment as part of the [adult education budget] funding and performance rules for basic digital skills," the original consultation document stated. "Providers will need to carry out a thorough initial assessment to determine an individual’s current skills level using an assessment tool based on the new national basic digital skills standards.”

The government response to the consultation said the new essential digital skills qualifications will "enable adults to develop the digital skills they need for life, work or further study, as set out in the essential digital skills national standards. To support a range of purposes, these qualifications must cover all five of the skill areas from the national standards, and may cover some, or all, of the skills statements in each skill area."

Digital knowledge

The Department also published its new national standards for essential digital skills. They set out the digital skills needed for work and life across entry level, designed for adults with no or little prior experience of using digital devices or the internet, and level 1, designed for adults with some experience but lacking secure basic digital skills.

“The standards include a single entry level, rather than three entry sub-levels to reflect how digital skills are typically taught, learned and applied," the document adds.

Ms Milton said: “I want people of all ages to have the skills and confidence they need for work and everyday life. 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.

“I am thrilled to launch the new ‘essential digital skills’ qualifications which 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.”

Digital and the creative Industries minister Margot James said: “The new entitlement will give everyone the opportunity to participate in an increasingly digital world and take advantage of digital technology, whether it is using a smartphone, learning how to send emails or shopping online.”

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