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Job seekers set to download their destiny via computer

UP TO 50,000 job-hunters will get pound;400 worth of training to improve their computer skills from May.

Michael Wills, the learning and technology minister, released details of the scheme that was first announced in last year's Budget. It links with the new Internet-based jobs and training service unveiled last week by David Blunkett, the Education Secretary.

Mr Wills said that the pound;25 million initiative was vitally important to the drive to reskill Britain. Only 20 per cent of the jobless had done a computer course, compared to 48 per cent of employed people.

After completing an introductory taster session, those wanting to learn more will be able to take a short computer course that is likely to take 30 hours over four to six weeks to complete. They will be tailored to individuals' needs and allow job-seekers to continue looking for work.

The Government wants to tempt 50,000 people into taking short courses. Vouchers will be required to register for a course and will be available to anyone who is claiming benefits.

Education, community and private sector organisations are being invited to support the initiative by providing taster sessions and courses, Mr Wills said. "We must reach out to those in need - often the very people who feel that comuters are too expensive or just 'not for them' - with courses that are attractive and exciting."

Bids for running courses must be submitted to government offices by early next month. They will be offered until March 2001.

All courses will have nationally recognised qualifications, ranging from Key Skills 1 and 2 to the European Computer Driving Licence.

Mr Wills said some learners might also opt to brush up on basic literacy and numeracy skills at the same time to help them to make the most of their new

technology skills.

While someone between jobs might choose computer basics, an older person returning to the job market could opt to find out about using the Internet to obtain information and make efficient use of e-mail.

A New Deal trainee, meanwhile, might learn new office skills such as word-processing letters, making Powerpoint presentations or managing accounts with a spreadsheet.

The training plan will tie in with the 700 information and communications technology centres that will be operating within a year and up to 1,000 learndirect centres providing access to online University for Industry courses.

Registration for the training will not be available until May. For learndirect information call 0800 100 900.

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