BusinessCompany NewsSMEs in line for free IT training

SMEs in line for free IT training

Thousands of small businesses could be entitled to free IT training following the expansion of a government-sponsored skills initiative announced in the Budget earlier this month.

Link: Budget special report

Chancellor Gordon Brown pledged a further £190m to the Learning and Skills Council’s Employer Training Pilots (ETPs), which are designed to deliver free GCSE-equivalent training to poorly qualified workers, typically in businesses with fewer than 50 employees.

This includes (but is not restricted to) formal IT training such as the European Computer Driving License.

ETPs are currently operating in 12 regions of the country following a two-phase implementation over the past 18 months.

The extra funding will broaden the programme to cover almost half of England by making ETPs available to a further six regions: the North East, Lancashire, West Yorkshire, the Black Country, Cambridgeshire and Devon and Cornwall.

Junior Education and Skills minister Ivan Lewis said in a statement: ‘An independent evaluation of the first year showed that ETPs are proving highly successful in engaging employers and their lower skilled employees in training.’

Shavaun Glen, strategic communications consultant at the Learning and Skills Council, said the scheme addresses employers’ needs and delivers training in a flexible way that does not disrupt their businesses. ‘We focus on meeting their demands and needs as opposed to pushing something they may not find useful or effective,’ she said.

But e-learning provider Thomson NETg said ETPs may need some refinement. Laura Kelly, the company’s international marketing manager, said: ‘While the government’s pledge of an extra £190m is commendable, questions need to be asked about how effective these training methods are and how they are being measured.

‘The learning environment today has opened up and e-learning should be incorporated into these pilots alongside traditional classroom-based training techniques.’

Glen admits the Learning and Skills Council has not yet assessed the extent of demand for e-learning, but says this will be explored in phase three of the scheme.

‘That’s not to say businesses haven’t been using e-learning already, but the evaluation forms don’t currently measure that,’ she said.

Businesses interested in finding out more about ETPs can call the LSC helpline on 0870 9006800.

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