Free courses offered to upskill furloughed workers

The Government has launched a free online toolkit offering courses to those forced to stay at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including furloughed workers.

woman coding at laptop


The Education Secretary has launched a new toolkit offering furloughed workers and others staying at home during the pandemic free online lessons in numeracy and digital skills.

The Skills Toolkit will also include free online lessons on a range a subjects from how to code to how to use social media. It has been developed by Leeds University, The Open University and the Institute for Coding.

The toolkit is designed to help people gain new skills while they are staying at home and boost their confidence. The government says the courses have been selected on the advice of experts and leading employers to make sure they meet the needs of business, not just for today but in the future. It adds that this will help with longer-term recovery and boost employability across the country, helping people to build up the skills employers need during time spent at home.

The Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “The high-quality and free to access courses on offer on our new online learning platform, The Skills Toolkit, will help those whose jobs have been affected by the outbreak, and people looking to boost their skills while they are staying at home, protecting the NHS and saving lives.

“I want businesses to encourage their furloughed employees to use The Skills Toolkit to improve their knowledge, build their confidence and support their mental health so they have skills they need to succeed after the coronavirus outbreak.”

The launch comes as the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development releases a report, Creating learning cultures: assessing the evidence, on what a learning culture means in practice. It outlines what employers can do to embed and foster a learning environment and includes practical steps professionals can take to support employee learning and professional development and finds a link between organisational support for learning and growth, transformation and knowledge sharing.

Meanwhile, the accuracy of data on furloughed workers has been questioned after HMRC said it would end daily reporting and move to a weekly update on the numbers. The move aims to avoid double-counting those workers who have more than one job and so could show up several times – even though experts says it is useful to know how many jobs – and from which sectors – are being protected by the scheme as well as how many people. Figures suggest that more than four million people are now relying on the scheme, which covers 80% of employees’ wages up to £2,500 a month.

The Chancellor is discussing with business groups and unions how to phase out the job retention scheme to avoid a surge in unemployment when it ends.

There has also been concern about executive pay at those firms using the furlough scheme after research by the High Pay Centre showed that listed companies taking advantage of the government’s furlough scheme spent a combined total of £321m on chief executive pay over the past five years and paid out £26bn in dividends.

New remuneration guidelines have been issued by the Investment Association (IA) suggesting companies that have received government support to help them through the coronavirus crisis should cut executive pay and consider clawing back bonuses from bosses. The group said executives at listed businesses where pay awards remain high after receiving taxpayer-funded assistance risk “significant reputational ramifications”. Chris Cummings, chief executive of the IA, said that during this “exceptional period” they expect companies to be “careful to ensure that executives and the general workforce are treated consistently”.



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