Digital Skills Partnership Newsletter – June 2020

Welcome to the fifth edition of the Digital Skills Partnership. We hope this finds you safe and well. Here at the Digital Skills Partnership, we continue to be inspired by the great work across the country as communities and industry rally together to help people navigate our new world.

This month’s edition features a spotlight section on digital inclusion, highlighting the incredible efforts of some of our partners as they work at pace to support vulnerable groups during this uncertain time.

We are also pleased to share updates from the six trailblazer Local Digital Skills Partnerships, who have been playing an important role in the response to Covid-19, collaborating with local and national partners to help businesses and individuals build digital skills and resilience and contribute to regional economic recovery.

As ever, please get in touch with your feedback, experiences and concerns. We welcome you to share what would be of most value to you in this newsletter and we encourage you to share it with your networks. You can view our last edition here and new subscribers can sign-up here.

In this newsletter:
  1. Government Covid-19 guidance
  2. Latest news from DCMS
  3. Spotlight: digital inclusion
  4. Updates from the Local DSPs
  5. Educational resources for young people
  6. Online learning: digital skills training
  7. Latest research


Heart of the south west LEP - Digital Skills Partnership Newsletter - June 2020

Whether you are facing particular challenges, or are developing new initiatives to support people during this time, please get in touch with us at, citing ‘DSP’ in the subject line.

Government Covid-19 guidance

The government has introduced a range of measures to support people and businesses during this time:

  • Read more on the government’s response to Covid-19 and what you need to do here.
  • Check the business support website for the range of Covid-19 support available to businesses.
  • Guidance for the public on mental health and wellbeing can be found here.
Heart of the south west LEP - Digital Skills Partnership Newsletter - June 2020

Latest news from DCMS

The Skills Toolkit: Free digital courses

The Department for Education, with support from DCMS, has recently launched The Skills Toolkit, a new online platform providing easy access to free, high-quality digital and numeracy courses. The Skills Toolkit is open to everyone, whether they are furloughed, out of work, or just keen to learn a new skill.

Boosting the nation’s digital skills is a first step towards recovery, helping people build up the skills employers need while boosting growth and productivity. Indeed, as recent DCMS analysis has shown, 82% of job vacancies require digital skills.

We encourage you to share the Toolkit with your networks and employees to help individuals build up skills, progress in work, boost their job prospects, and support their mental health and wellbeing during this difficult time.

Launch of the Consumer Digital Index

The 2020 Lloyds Bank Consumer Digital Index launched on 21st May at a virtual, interactive event. You can now access the full report, key findings and calls to action here. The Minister for Digital & Culture, Caroline Dinenage, also shared a video message for the launch.

The Consumer Digital Index is the largest measure of digital capability and skills for consumers. If you’re interested in finding out more about this year’s key findings, or want to discuss the report in more detail, please reach out to

Heart of the south west LEP - Digital Skills Partnership Newsletter - June 2020

£13 million bid to boost AI and data science digital skills

DCMS, BEIS and the Office for Artificial Intelligence have awarded £13 million to 18 universities across England to boost the number of graduates in AI and data science technologies over the next three years. The competition was run by the Office for Students (OfS). £10 million of the funding will be used for scholarships to support students from underrepresented groups.

New virtual cyber school for young people

DCMS in partnership with the SANS Institute has recently launched a new virtual cyber school for young people to join online classes to develop problem-solving and cyber skills. NCSC are also moving their popular CyberFirst summer courses online and the National Crime Agency (NCA) has recently launched CyberLand, in partnership with the Cyber Security Challenge UK. Read more here.

Tech UK, in partnership with DCMS, has also launched a new cyber training and skills content repository, identifying a range of free-to-access online security training courses for all.

Heart of the south west LEP - Digital Skills Partnership Newsletter - June 2020

Tackling Loneliness

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has launched a major effort to tackle loneliness and social isolation through a new Let’s Talk Loneliness campaign. This includes a £5 million funding boost for national charities at the forefront of this work and a newly-formed Tackling Loneliness Network, bringing together charities and businesses. Read more here.

Heart of the south west LEP - Digital Skills Partnership Newsletter - June 2020

Spotlight: Digital inclusion

It is clear that digital skills can be a lifeline for people. Digital skills are crucial to ensure we stay connected with others, participate in the workplace and society, and manage our mental and physical wellbeing.

We have highlighted below a selection of resources and initiatives from organisations and charities working hard during this time to tackle digital exclusion and support vulnerable groups gain essential digital skills for life.

Guidance for voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations

DCMS and the Office for Civil Society have compiled information and advice for voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations during the Covid-19 outbreak, including guidance on funding support, digital resources and business offers of support.

Become a Digital Champion

Digital Unite are offering free 3-month membership to their award-winning Digital Champions Network for individuals in communities and small charities as well as independent volunteers. The Network is an online learning and support platform that trains volunteers and staff as confident Digital Champions. It also includes guidance on providing digital skills support remotely if you are interested in helping others stay connected. The offer is available to the first 100 people who sign up.  Find out more here.

DevicesDotNow: Getting the most vulnerable online

DCMS is pleased to promote FutureDotNow’s DevicesDotNow campaign to coordinate industry action to donate and distribute devices and connectivity to some of the most vulnerable households in the UK.

Can your organisation help? The DevicesDotNow campaign is asking businesses to donate tablets, smartphones and laptops, as well as connectivity in the form of sim cards, dongles and mobile hotspots. Find out more here.

To see how the campaign is already supporting communities, watch Mable’s story here. Mable, who is 91 and self-isolating, recently received a BT-donated tablet through the DevicesDotNow campaign and is now able to video call her daughter in Australia who she hasn’t seen for 25 years.

Supporting people with an impairment and those in later life

AbilityNet are offering free IT and tech support by phone or online for people of any age living with a disability or impairment. They are also hosting a range of free AbilityNet Live online events to help share useful information for disabled people and their carers and employers. Check out their free resources for more, including factsheets, digital accessibility resources, and workplace adjustment guidance.

Citizens Online has curated a list of resources to help us stay in touch with family, friends and colleagues, including guidance on how best to support the elderly and vulnerable.

Good Things Foundation has released a guide to help older people online. Their 2018 ‘I Am Connected’ report, commissioned by the Centre for Ageing Better, explores new approaches to supporting the elderly online and uses case studies of real people whose lives have been improved by acquiring digital skills.

Age UK’s Covid-19 guidance includes resources on how you can support older people and look after your loved ones during this time.

Resources and guides to tackle digital exclusion

“We all need to be asking people about their digital skills” – have a read of this blogpost from Citizens Online on the importance of asking about people’s digital capability when making contact with those who are most at risk from Covid-19.

Citizens Online are running a series of free weekly online sessions for people supporting others with their digital skills. They have also created a digital exclusion risk map of England, based around NHS Digital GP surgery data, to help understand community needs during Covid-19.

Digital Unite has gathered together over 90 of their most relevant digital guides and resources to support people with the essential digital skills they need to stay connected and informed during Covid-19. These free resources can also easily be added to your own website.

Join the Online Centres Network

If you are an organisation supporting your local community with free or low-cost computer access or tuition in essential digital skills, sign up to the Good Things Foundation’s Online Centres Network.

Good Things Foundation are also running regular free online training and information webinars to help Online Centres better serve their communities, and have also put together a range of resources.

Lloyds Banking Group & We Are Digital: Support for vulnerable customers

Lloyds Banking Group and We Are Digital have launched a new initiative to support vulnerable customers access free and practical support to help them stay connected online. We Are Digital will provide a specialist phone line to help up to 20,000 customers access the internet, at a time where gaining digital skills will support people with their finances.

The partnership will also deliver up to 2000 tablets to over 70s who don’t have a suitable device to access the internet as part of its pilot phase. Users will learn skills to help with everyday digital tasks such as online shopping and connecting virtually with family and friends, as well as online banking.

Updates from the Local Digital Skills Partnerships

Heart of the south west LEP - Digital Skills Partnership Newsletter - June 2020

“We are supporting our businesses during Covid-19 through our Growth Hub website and daily newsletters. Resources and online materials to support remote working and learning are on the site. Our £30 million Accelerate Cheshire and Warrington training programme that supports businesses to reskill and upskill their workforce, particularly in digital skills, has adapted to deliver training online.

“Initial responses to a survey of our secondary schools has identified approximately 2000 students who are unable to learn online because they do not have a computer. We are working closely with local partners and DevicesDotNow to address this.

“Our Pledge Network working with Learn Live have launched their Learn Live @11am programme. This broadcasts careers presentations from local employers accompanied by live question and answer sessions. Each broadcast has had around 4,000 views. Videos are available following the broadcasts.”

Sarah Williams, Regional Coordinator for Cheshire & Warrington

Heart of the south west LEP - Digital Skills Partnership Newsletter - June 2020

“Over the last two months, we have been largely focused upon gathering intelligence and responding to immediate digital skills needs of SMEs, schools, and communities. We have also been working with partners to focus minds on the digital exclusion that has isolated so many in our communities. We have recently launched a newsletter to share regular updates from the DSP. You can sign up here, and view our latest edition here.

“We are working with a wide range of local partners and DevicesDotNow to develop a consortium approach to procurement. In addition, we are also working closely with NHS partners to explore how we could offer a more personalised digital solution based on a wider range of tech solutions, for example through voice-activated applications to minimise the need for additional digital skills training.

“As a Partnership, the CIoS DSP is largely focussed on how we can ensure digital skills can contribute to economic recovery as we enter a new normal. The lockdown has had a devastating impact on many SMEs, and we believe digital skills will be a core part of our recovery. The DSP has a huge role to play in helping the adoption of digital and the migration to more resilient delivery models.

“This has been a very tough period for many people. However, with challenge comes opportunity. These unique circumstances have clearly demonstrated the importance of embedding digital skills training at the heart of strategic planning. The DSP will play a central role in driving this change, and in turn, supporting our economic recovery.”

Ben Bolton, Regional Coordinator for Cornwall & Isles of Scilly

Heart of the south west LEP - Digital Skills Partnership Newsletter - June 2020

“It’s great to have the opportunity to share what’s going on in Devon, Somerset, Plymouth and Torbay. As with all organisations, our work since mid-March has focused on Covid-19 support. Our speed of response and dissemination meant that we quickly became the central, digital signposting organisation for the LEP’s Growth Hub, as well as our local authorities, district councils, business groups, and education providers.

“We will launch a new Digital Skills Resilience programme to support 600 SMEs with digital support, including short courses on cyber security, developing e-commerce websites, and using productivity tools. We are also engaging with DevicesDotNow and Business in the Community to leverage hardware and connectivity to vulnerable households

“In other news, our Digital Skills Innovation Fund project will complete delivery this July. It will have helped 170 individuals upskill or retrain into digital careers, including roles in cyber security and as network engineers or data analysts. The program, through mobilisation bursaries, will also support 50 individuals who had no prior access hardware with online learning. Finally, we have been selected as one of twenty finalists in the Nesta Career EdTech Challenge which will see us working with Learn Devon and Skilllab to support mature workers who are at risk of automation. You can read more about the project here.”

Charlotte Collyer, Regional Coordinator for the Heart of South West

Heart of the south west LEP - Digital Skills Partnership Newsletter - June 2020

“In Lancashire, in the last month, we have launched the Lancashire Skills Swap to complement the business support offer coordinated by Boost, the Lancashire Growth Hub. Skills Swap is a free service to support Lancashire businesses who are either looking for skills or people, or local businesses who are able to offer skills or people. The noticeboard of offers and asks is growing every day and connecting people across the county. Our #AskForHelp service is also available to all businesses, and a call line has been set up so that businesses are able to access our team of expert business advisers across Lancashire.

“We have also been busy across a number of other projects. One notable area is our work with multiple agencies to get devices and connectivity, with wrap-around skills support, to vulnerable adults and young people who need them. We are working closely with the DevicesDotNow initiative as part of this.”

Kerry Harrison, Regional Coordinator for Lancashire
Heart of the south west LEP - Digital Skills Partnership Newsletter - June 2020

“Here in the South East, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of digital skills resources, split by support for Businesses and Charities, Educators and Students and our Residents (including jobseekers and furloughed staff).

“We are delighted too to be in the process of agreeing a donation to the DevicesDotNow campaign, in order to secure hardware and connectivity for some of our most vulnerable residents who have no access to the internet. We will be targeting some of the most disadvantaged areas of the South East, and will work with the Good Things Foundation’s Online Centre network to ensure that residents have the support they need to get online and be confident in doing so.

“We are also talking to Mindweaver AI, with a view to establishing a programme in partnership with Jobcentre Plus to support 30 to 50 candidates with a disability into digital jobs across the South East once lockdown is eased.”

James Wilkinson, Regional Coordinator for the South East

Heart of the south west LEP - Digital Skills Partnership Newsletter - June 2020

“The Covid-19 pandemic has catalysed activity across the West Midlands region, demonstrating our resilience, especially within the tech sector. Many of the digital skills training providers we fund are now delivering their courses online. We are also pleased to announce 11 training providers to deliver Round 2 of the Digital Retraining Fund pilot. We currently publicise the online courses on our Covid-19 support site.

“As many of our training providers are shifting to online delivery, we have collaborated with Birmingham-based tech company, Smartella, to support our colleges and training providers network tailor their courses to virtual learning. Our Local DSP is also proud to support the DevicesDotNow Campaign and we are delighted that BT have been able to support three Good Things Foundation online centres across our region with devices and connectivity.

“We are also very pleased to welcome the on-boarding of two new members to the DSP Board: Patrick Stephenson, the Director of Innovation and Healthcare at Fujitsu, and Wayne Langford, the Director for the West Midlands Combined Universities.”

Marika Beckford, Regional Coordinator for the West Midlands

Heart of the south west LEP - Digital Skills Partnership Newsletter - June 2020

Educational resources for young people

The Department for Education has collated a list of online educational resources for schools and parents to help children to learn at home during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

TeenTech has launched new TeenTech At Home sessions to support young people develop their skills for tomorrow’s world. This includes TeenTech Live Innovation Sessions to encourage students to develop their own solutions to global challenges and learn more about different careers across a range of industries.

STEM Learning is providing a range of online support for home learning, including remote lessons for young people and support for teachers and parents. Their STEM Ambassadors across the country are also keeping young people engaged with podcasts, Q&As, virtual networking, quizzes and virtual code clubs.Tech We Can has launched a range of online lesson plans for parents and carers teaching at home. The 12 free lesson plans, mapped to the National Curriculum, are designed to inspire children to see the tech careers that exist in the world and how they could work in these areas. You can register here.

Online learning: digital skills training

In addition to The Skills Toolkit, there is a wide range of online learning offers and digital skills training platforms to support individuals upskill during this time. We have highlighted below a small sample of some of these offers, developed by DSP partners, from basic to more advanced courses:

Heart of the south west LEP - Digital Skills Partnership Newsletter - June 2020

Lloyds Bank Academy features free digital skills learning for any level. They also have a variety of resources for businesses including guides on engaging customers, generating revenue and improving operations. The Academy are also launching new content to provide support to organisations and people during this time, including broader content on mental health and wellbeing and sustainability. Check out their Academy webinars, including weekly “Get Talking Tuesdays” sessions to bring the business community together while focusing on a key area of support.

Google Digital Garage has dozens of free online courses, including “Get a business online“, “Make sure customers find you online” and “Connect with customers over mobile“. They are also running free webinars from Monday to Friday, covering a selection of courses aimed at helping individuals and small businesses with digital skills including digital marketing strategy and building a CV and cover letter.

Heart of the south west LEP - Digital Skills Partnership Newsletter - June 2020
Heart of the south west LEP - Digital Skills Partnership Newsletter - June 2020

BT’s Skills for Tomorrow programme provides support for people with low or no digital skills, small businesses, parents and teachers. They have also launched a free webinar programme featuring a range of courses to help businesses and individuals, from using social media tools to managing your wellbeing.

The Data Skills Taskforce, supported by DCMS, has created a free online platform providing access to content for SMEs to help develop their data skills. The platform has a self-assessment tool that helps you understand your organisational and technical readiness with respect to data, and signposts you to relevant resources and training.

Heart of the south west LEP - Digital Skills Partnership Newsletter - June 2020
Heart of the south west LEP - Digital Skills Partnership Newsletter - June 2020

Good Things Foundation’s Learn My Way platform provides free online courses for beginners, helping you develop digital skills to make the most of the online world. It also offers Make It Click: a collection of online learning resources including courses, tools and templates carefully picked from established websites with a track record of providing reliable digital skills content.

FutureLearn offers credible and flexible online courses. You can find a range of courses in various subject areas including IT and Computer Science. For those looking to upskill, re-skill or simply keep their brains stimulated during this time, FutureLearn has collated a collection of ‘boredom-busting’ courses from leading universities across the world.

Heart of the south west LEP - Digital Skills Partnership Newsletter - June 2020
Heart of the south west LEP - Digital Skills Partnership Newsletter - June 2020

Ensuring your skills are up-to-date during this uncertain period can be difficult. In order to make digital skills education more available, the Institute of Coding’s partners have produced a variety of courses, including some that are short, online and free, so you can gain new skills at home.

Latest digital skills research

Cross-sector partnerships are vital to tackling skills challenges. Nesta’s latest Partnership for Skills report looks at key lessons from four cross-sector partnerships from the Nordic and Benelux region, sharing their key learnings and recommendations for effective partnerships.

Earlier this year, Nesta also published Make it FutureFit: Four ways to design better adult learning experiences, a practical guide designed to help those who seek to prepare workers for the immediate needs of a rapidly changing world of work.
Heart of the south west LEP - Digital Skills Partnership Newsletter - June 2020

If you would like any more information, or would like to find out our Covid-19 response work, please do get in touch with us at, citing ‘DSP’ in the subject line. We’d also welcome your feedback on the newsletter – do let us know what you would like to see in future editions.