Economy Minister Diane Dodds today announced a free skills programme for small businesses and a free post-graduate certificate in software development for people whose career has been impacted by Covid-19.
The Skills Focus programme, available for SMEs with fewer than 250 employees, is now offering free upskilling for staff, including those who are furloughed. The 25% cost to businesses has been removed, until 31 March 2021, to support companies throughout the pandemic. The courses, with accredited qualifications, are delivered by the local further education colleges.
The Minister also confirmed 100 fully funded places for a part-time postgraduate certificate (PgCert) in software development with Queen’s University Belfast. The part-time course, starting in late May, is open to people whose careers have been impacted by the pandemic and who have a 2:2 degree in any non-computing subject or appropriate work experience.
Highlighting this further investment in the local skills base, the Minister said: “I recognise that many businesses have had to place staff on furlough during the pandemic. I want to help small companies upskill their staff in readiness for the recovery, which is why I have removed the 25% employer contribution for the Skills Focus programme. SMEs can now apply, at no cost, to upskill their staff with accredited qualifications that will boost their workforce’s capability on their return to work.
“Further education colleges will deliver the training online in a range of areas, including customer service, health and social care, leadership, and tourism.”
Turning to the postgraduate certificate in software development, the Minister said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for people with degrees in a non-computing subject, or appropriate work experience, and whose careers have been affected by the pandemic, to study in a growth area and potentially secure employment in the future.
“Queen’s University will deliver the learning ‘virtually’ and participants who complete the course will be positioned to compete for roles in this growing sector, or choose to complete the Master's course.”
The postgraduate certificate in software development is a part-time course running from late May to December 2020. There is also the option of accelerated learning to finish in September and progress directly into Year 2 of study on the full MSc in Software Development, complete the Master's in Sept 2021 and enter graduate-level roles (software engineer, analyst, etc.).
The part-time PgCert is open to those who have been furloughed, lost their job, economically inactive or are self-employed and lost their income because of the pandemic. Applicants must either hold a 2:2 degree in any non-computing subject or have appropriate work experience.
All applicants must have access to a computer and internet connection and will be required to complete a short online aptitude test.
The two measures represent an investment of around £500,000.