Economy Minister announces £1.7m to support online learning for people impacted by Covid-19

Date published: 12 June 2020

Economy Minister Diane Dodds today announced an investment of £1.7million for a range of online skills interventions to upskill and retrain people whose jobs have been impacted by Covid-19.

Covid-19 Update

The funding will be used to deliver a range of online learning for individuals whose jobs have been impacted by Covid-19.

This initiative will create almost 2,000 free places on short courses, delivered by the local further education colleges and universities.

These courses are fully accredited and include opportunities from entry to postgraduate levels, focussing on skills identified by industry, including digital skills, essential skills, employability skills, and leadership and management.

In addition, a range of courses aligned to work in the health and social care sector have been funded. This is in direct response to the demands placed on this sector throughout the public health emergency.

Highlighting the opportunities available, the Minister said:

"Many people and businesses have been deeply affected by the economic impact of Covid-19. It is vital, in the short term, that we provide opportunities for individuals which will support them in finding new employment, or boost the potential of their businesses when they return to work.

"Northern Ireland employers have long reported skills gaps in areas such as digital skills, English, mathematics and the employability skills crucial for effective engagement in the workplace. This funding will enable people to gain these skills and help them to re-engage with the labour market with new pathways to higher level qualifications.

"Covid-19 has also brought into sharp focus those working in the health and social care sector and the need to ensure that we have a sufficient supply of appropriately skilled workers to meet the demand. With these reskilling opportunities available through these short term courses, there is the potential for workers directly affected by the economic impact of Covid-19 to embark on a new career in this essential and rewarding service."

The Minister added:

"I would like to thank the staff of the colleges and universities and commend them for developing these courses in a remarkably short time. Together, I believe that as we progress towards the new normal, this provision will help to address identified skills gaps in our workforce, help boost productivity when our economy returns, and help foster a culture of lifelong learning."

All courses will be delivered online and participation will be flexible to fit around the busy lives of individuals, many of whom may be working from home or providing support to children or vulnerable relatives. All courses include an accredited qualification and be complete by the 30 November 2020.

Courses will be advertised directly by the colleges and universities and a full portfolio of the available courses will be included on nidirect website.

Notes to editors: 

  1. For media enquiries contact the Department for the Economy Press Office on
  2. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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