Londoners who have been unable to access training because of the restrictions in place to help prevent the spread of Covid-19 are set to benefit from new funding from the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.
The Mayor is making up to £9 million available to help skills providers offer their courses online, as well as targeted support for learners who may have difficulties accessing such services.
This will help learners develop the skills they need to access employment, gain confidence in using digital tools – as London moves to more online working and learning – and help them gain the wider social and economic benefits of acquiring new skills.
The funding is being allocated from the Adult Education Budget (AEB), which was devolved to London in 2019.
Around £6 million will be made available through a new Skills for Londoners Covid-19 Response Fund, which will be accessible to colleges and local authorities which already receive a grant from the AEB.
The Fund will be split into two strands. The first will fund an expansion of online learning, targeted at furloughed workers and the self-employed (who are earning less than London Living Wage as a result of Covid-19), those made redundant as a result of the pandemic, and key workers in need of additional training to meet the changing needs of their jobs.
The second will build capacity in the skills sector in order to support learners at risk of exclusion with the shift to digital learning. It will fund improvements to digital infrastructure, develop staff to ensure they can deliver online learning, and redesign courses usually delivered in classrooms so they can be delivered effectively online.
A further £3 million will be available to procured providers – largely private companies and charities – which are also funded through the AEB, in order to help expand their provision of online learning.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “The necessary restrictions to help prevent the spread of Covid-19 have caused significant disruption to every aspect of our daily lives.
“London’s fantastic skills providers should be congratulated for the speed and resilience they’ve shown in moving their courses online to help Londoners continue to acquire vital skills. But we know that some providers need help in making the switch to online learning – and that some Londoners require support to access this training.
“I’m confident this funding will have a significant impact for providers and learners. I’m committed to doing all I can to help Londoners to gain the skills they need to access employment, despite the difficulties we face now and in the coming weeks and months.”
The Association of College’s Area Director for London, Mary Vine-Morris, said: “Colleges like most other businesses in London have been severely impacted by Covid-19. The response from colleges to immediately take almost all of their learning online has been incredible and many students are engaging well.
“AoC welcomes this fund which will help improve the delivery of the online content already being provided, especially for digitally excluded learners and also for what could be an extended period of remote learning as we begin to explore what the ‘new normal’ for teaching and learning looks like.
“We have been hugely impressed by how quickly the Mayor’s team responded to offer assurances to the sector for stability. Colleges are ready and willing to support social and economic recovery in the Capital and are expecting to play a crucial role in helping those impacted by the pandemic.”
London Councils’ Executive member for Skills and Employment, Cllr Georgia Gould, said: “It is vital that skills providers are supported to reach Londoners continuing their education and training during the Covid-19 pandemic and this new fund will allow these important connections to be made. It is also essential that provision is made for Londoners who may not have access to the internet or digital learning platforms.
“London Councils welcomes the announcement of new funding from the Mayor as we enter the next phase of the pandemic. In the longer term, we look forward to working with the Mayor and skills providers, employers and communities throughout London to ensure that people receive the employment and skills support they need to be part of the renewal of London’s economy.”
London Chair of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, Nichola Hay, said: “It’s really encouraging to see the Mayor address the needs of those made redundant and potential job changers, as well as for other groups.
“This is exactly the type of joined-up approach we need across the country whether it’s a central government or a devolved initiative, and over the longer term the Fund could pave the way for a more blended way of learning which would particularly benefit those from disadvantaged backgrounds who can save money by not having to travel to attend courses.”