The Department For Education has launched a new training scheme called ‘An Hour to Skill’ in a bid to combat rising joblessness.
Latest figures show that the UK unemployment rate reached 4.9% last October.
The new government scheme aims to boost worker skills from home and support mental wellbeing – particularly in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
Participants will be encouraged to partake in one hour of learning each week through online courses covering a variety of expertise including digital skills, business and finance, and personal development.
Launched on the 7th of January, the programme has been backed by numerous regional groups including Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
Their skills analyst Mira Koseva says “lifelong learning is the future”, as she explained the significance of the scheme.
She said: “It’s important now because we know the world of work is changing. The long term changes are driven by new technology and new ways of working.
“The pandemic has accelerated the rate within our local business sectors.”
The LEP is one of 38 in England who work in partnership with businesses, local government, education institutes and other industry organisations to drive economic growth by attracting funding, increasing productivity and developing local strategies.
According to figures from the Dorset LEP, in 2020, recruitment in the county was lower in most sectors than the year prior.
Labour demand fell by half in accommodation and food services, with the same pattern emerging in arts, entertainment, and recreation.
But it remained the same in the financial services, utilities and professional services, scientific and technical activities while growing in health and social care sector.
With the job market changing, schemes like this are designed to prevent long-term unemployment and could be key to the economic recovery in local economies.
Ms Koseva added: “The way our recovery will play will very much depend on if the people have the right skills for the jobs available.
“The ability to move between jobs and sectors is key for our future development to ensure people are making the most of the job opportunities, long-term unemployment is then avoided and businesses are less affected by skills shortages.”
‘An Hour to Skill’ was prompted by the skills mismatch at a national level, which was exacerbated by the pandemic, with that mismatch prevalent in Dorset, explained Ms Koseva.
She said: “Local employers here are really suffering from digital skills gaps.
“Over 56% have existing skills gaps which have been worsened because of the crisis of working from home.”
Low-skilled workers and young people are disproportionately affected by the pandemic with almost half of the 18-24-year olds working in Dorset employed in distribution, hotels and restaurants.
While there were still some vacancies in these sectors, they were vastly diminished, and the skills mismatch could slow down any movement across sectors and cause unemployment lagging.
Whilst the main aim is to address the inconsistency in skills, the programme also intends to make learning a lifelong activity which has plenty of benefits for those that take part.
Ms Koseva said: “The more you learn the more you earn – on average research shows that people who undertake further online learning can earn around £3,640 extra each year.
“Also, 77% of people who online learn report better mental well-being.”
That is according to data from research conducted by TechUK, who helped develop the scheme for the Government.
The same research also found closing the Local Digital Capital gap could transform the UK, boosting economic output by as much as £145 billion, creating 2.7 million new jobs.
The economic impact won’t just be felt at the national level, but in the regional economies too.
To find out the effect here in Dorset, check out the audio clip below.