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22/04/2020
Opportunities for West Midlands people to learn new digital skills during Covid-19 shutdown

Local people will have more opportunities to improve their digital skills during the Covid-19 shutdown, thanks to new training courses funded by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).

The WMCA funds digital training through the region’s £126m adult education budget (AEB), in areas including artificial intelligence (AI), cloud technology, virtual reality, coding and cyber security, to give local people the skills they need to get new and better jobs.

Providers have moved from classroom sessions to online training, with more than 50 free digital training courses now available via the WMCA’s Covid-19 support site.

Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street said:

“We know these are unprecedented times for our adult learners and our training providers. “But when the region recovers, we will need to fill jobs in the digital sector. It’s critical that we increase training for local people now, so they are ready to take advantage of these opportunities.

“I am pleased that we already have more than 50 digital training courses available online, helping people to develop their employability skills and increase their confidence.

“We are publicising all the online courses we are funding for adult learners on our Covid-19 support site. There are hundreds to choose from, and I would urge anyone who is interested to sign up now.”

Netcom Training, based at Aston Science Park, Birmingham, is an IT training provider which specialises in cyber security and infrastructure. All its course programmes are being delivered online during the Covid-19 shutdown.

The company has started a new specialist course for people who want to become IT technicians, which includes networking and architecture; mobile and operating systems; cloud services; and business processes.

Training is being delivered through live streaming, virtual classrooms, and daily support and guidance from the learners’ tutors.

Netcom is also continuing to run introductory courses to give local people the skills they need to move on to further training in cyber security, through the WMCA’s ‘Beat the Bots’ fund set up to reduce the threat of automation to jobs in the region.

The company is currently working with 245 learners funded by the WMCA, and a further 35 people have all been recruited since the Covid-19 shutdown, to start the next session later this month. Of those who have completed learning since September 2019, 45 per cent have gained new jobs and the remainder are still in further education.

Operations manager Lynne Whitehouse said:

“We have moved to using video sessions so that the learners can see the tutor, watch practical demonstrations and benefit from detailed discussions and support as if they were in the classroom. This has proved very popular.

“We have set up virtual laboratories, which learners can access from their home, and we are setting mock exam questions and measuring learning by using online applications, such as Kahoot and Socrates, which show the results immediately.

“As some of our learners are already working and now may be looking after their children at home too, we have also introduced evening and weekend sessions to fit around their commitments.”

Cllr George Duggins, WMCA portfolio holder for productivity and skills and leader of Coventry City Council, said:

“From cyber security to video game development, the West Midlands offers a huge variety of career opportunities in the digital sector for school leavers, students and adults.

“But we need to ensure our workforce has the right skills and qualifications to fill roles in this sector, so we’re offering local people more opportunities to learn at home during the Covid-19 shutdown.” Residents can access links to online adult education training at https://beta.wmca.org.uk/what-we-do/productivity-and-skills/online-resources/

This site is constantly being updated as more courses become available.

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