An initiative between The @OpenUniversity (OU), the Department of Work and Pensions (@DWP) and Jobcentre Plus (@JCPJobsPlusMore) to tackle the common skills gaps among jobseekers is to be rolled out nationally following a successful pilot programme.
The programme gives jobseekers and claimants access to a specially designed hub of free skills-based courses on the OU’s OpenLearn platform, enabling them to gain recognition of their existing skillsets and to build new skills to increase their employment opportunities. Courses cover a range of areas such as leadership, networking and career resilience.
The successful pilot, which took place at Jobcentre Plus in Kingston-upon-Thames, trained JCP careers coaches via face to face workshops with OU OpenLearn staff to support their clients to undertake the courses to improve their chances of getting back into employment. Engagement has been extremely positive and initial results very encouraging. The programme has also had wider impact on the local community, gaining support from other local businesses and partners including Unilever, Fulham Football Club and Kingston Adult Education who are actively involved in endorsing and promoting the initiative.
The courses are designed for learners lacking in confidence, including people who have not studied for a number of years or whose previous education experience has been poor. Digital badges and certificates are awarded for course completion, allowing learners to showcase their new skills on electronic profiles such as LinkedIn. Additional courses covering basic maths and English as well as advice about interview skills and CV writing are also being added to this free offer.
Based on this success the DWP have now appointed the OU as a National Partner with a focus on JCP programmes and are now rolling out the OU offering to all 750 JCP offices across England, Scotland and Wales.
Minister for Employment, Mims Davies MP said:
“Many people will find themselves out of work and on the job hunt for the first time, perhaps unexpectedly, in need of vital support to build confidence, skills and new qualifications, and be ready to swiftly move back into employment - so it’s excellent to see these free online courses from The Open University become widely available at this time. Opportunity is at the heart of our Plan for Jobs as we push to build back better by doubling the number of Work Coaches across our Jobcentres, providing hundreds of thousands of Kickstart placements for young people while launching our new Job Entry Targeted Support to help those made jobless by the virus back into work.”
Simon Tindall, Head of New Business at The Open University said:
“The COVID crisis continues to cause massive disruption and displacement. Figures show that 25% of businesses have made redundancies in response to the pandemic and unemployment levels are expected to continue to rise. As a result, there are now over five million people claiming universal credit in some form. Supporting people back into work, especially those from more disadvantaged groups, is needed now more than ever and this is a fantastic opportunity for the OU to fulfil its social mission and provide free education and training to those people most in need.”
Cameron King, Employer Adviser, Department for Work and Pensions, said:
“The OpenLearn programme has proved very successful with customers and partners and it is exciting to be able to offer a range and breadth of free courses to support our jobseekers at whatever stage of their learning journey and whatever stage of their employability. The insight shared from The Open University has been invaluable in helping us to better understand the needs of industry in terms of skills and continuous learning and has also informed the nature and scope of how we offer some of our digital learning opportunities to jobseekers.”
Launched in 2006, OpenLearn has 15,000 hours of online courses and content offered to all, free of charge. The portal attracts 10 million visitors per year. With over 1,000 courses, learners can explore a subject, get inspiration, build skills and confidence and earn recognition (via badged open courses), all for free.
As well as popular interactives, academic insights and animations on a range of subjects there are also more typical taster courses in the arts, sciences, languages and more plus comprehensive courses to show you how to make your own open educational resources.
There are around 1000 courses to choose from: The courses always focus on a specific area of learning. Some focus on academic subjects, others on skills needed for study or work.
OpenLearn courses are also available on governments Skills Toolkit.