William Eichler 28 August 2018

Whitehall launches £1m skills fund to diversify tech workforce

The Government yesterday launched two new funds designed to boost diversity within digital and tech workforces.

A £1m Digital Skills Innovation Fund is now open for bids from Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and combined authorities for initiatives which specifically aim to help people take up digital roles.

The funding will be used to help women, disabled people, people from minority backgrounds or those living in lower socioeconomic areas to succeed in digital jobs.

Women are underrepresented in the uptake of digital qualifications, research cited by Whitehall has revealed, and the tech workforce is only 17% female.

Unemployed adults are also 5% more likely to lack the basic digital skills than the national average.

A new £400,000 Digital Inclusion Fund has also been launched to help older and disabled people acquire digital skills.

John Fisher, chief executive of Citizens Online, welcomed this new fund.

‘We know it’s becoming increasingly important that everybody in our society has the skills and confidence to be online; yet disabled people are four times more likely to lack essential digital skills then the general population and 28 per cent of those over 60 are offline,’ he said.

‘We’re delighted that this fund will test new ways of offering support to these marginalised groups, often with complex needs, to enable people to live better lives with the benefits that being online can offer.’

Commenting on the launch of both of the new funds, the minister for digital Margot James said: ‘It is crucial everyone is able to take advantage of digital technology, whether it is to learn how to use the internet or develop the skills to work in a tech role.

‘If we want to maintain our position as a world-leading digital economy we need to work with industry, local authorities and the voluntary sector to develop solutions so no-one is left behind.’

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