EU ploughs £1m into UK digital skills expansion

Government still relying on European funds despite ongoing Brexit tensions

Digital skills

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has launched a call for projects designed to provide digital skills training to small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) based in Yorkshire.

Approximately 900,000 worth of European Union (EU) funds will be allocated to projects that can deliver innovative digital skills provision based on skills needs in the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding areas.

Successful bidders are expected to detail programmes that work to plug the skills gaps specific to these areas which are generally more rural than urban.

Where the first investment priority for applicants concerns expanding digital skills, the second priority is helping SMBs identify and evaluate digital systems that will drive business performance.

The scheme is evidence that regions across the UK are still reliant on money sourced from the European Commission's European Social Fund (ESF) to expand opportunities and upskill the workforce.

The digital skills gap in the UK is widely pronounced, but there has been a stream of efforts to counter this momentum. Efforts include both encouraging young people to undertake STEM subjects in education, as well as reskilling and upskilling existing workers.

The European Commission, too, been involved in funding related schemes in the past, including the Mayor of London's 7 million scheme to improve digital diversity, launched in March last year.

Director for the Institute of Coding (IoC) Dr Rachid Hourizi said digital skills are not just important for people who live in urban areas and work in offices.

"New technology now being applied to sectors like farming and agriculture means it is essential that individuals living in rural communities are provided with the digital skills training required to excel in their careers," he said.

"With this new investment, the UK can ensure that SMEs in sectors such as agritech, biorenewables and engineering gain the skills they need in fields like coding, robotics and artificial intelligence, keeping these sectors competitive in today's economy."

The DWP is also encouraging applications from consortia or similar types of partnerships struck from organisations within the region.

Those seeking to win a portion of ESF funding must submit their applications by 25 November, with projects completed no later than 31 December 2023.

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