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Towards an inclusive economic recovery

Marie Hendry, OU in Scotland Depute Director (External Engagement and Partnerships)Author: 

Marie Hendry is Depute Director (External Engagement and Partnerships) at The Open University in Scotland.

This week saw the publication of a report by KPMG that suggested the lost economic ground as a result of the COVID pandemic could be regained within the next two years.

While this 'best case' scenario would be a welcome proposition, the reality of the here and now is that for many people the need to upskill and/or reskill has never been greater.

Indeed, the demand for courses at The Open University in Scotland has increased significantly since the start of the pandemic.

Skills+ Scotland, The Open University in Scotland's vision for the 2021-26 Scottish ParliamentThe OU was established over 50 years ago with a mission to open up access to high quality education for everyone regardless of background or qualifications. 

It became a route to education for many looking to develop their skills, and a solution for an economy that required to develop and utilise the skills of the whole population, no matter their circumstances.

Last year in response to the pandemic with the support from the Scottish Funding Council’s Upskilling Fund, we launched a range of funded 30 credit modules for those who were at risk of redundancy or furloughed in areas which address Scottish skills gaps such as IT, maths and engineering enabling participants to upskill for future roles.

Crucially, our supported open entry meant that we could offer higher education opportunities to those with no previous qualifications who may otherwise have struggled to compete in a post-pandemic jobs market.

In addition, a new range of short, skills-focussed ‘microcredentials’ which enable workers to reskill and upskill was also launched.

On these, we’re working with major international partners to offer real business insights, industry accreditation and certification in subjects where Scotland has identified skills-gaps which include digital skills, coding, business, and management, including highly relevant courses in pivoting to online learning, dealing with uncertainty and redesigning business models.

A renewed focus on learning, reskilling and upskilling from the parliament is vital as the nation recovers. 

The Open University can help support Scotland’s green recovery with its online delivery model.

More agile higher education provision, delivered flexibly and with shorter courses and modules focused on the skills we need are central to this.  

We need to recognise that people enter higher education at different stages of their lives and that they balance work with study, caring responsibilities, or other commitments.

Everyone’s learner journey should be flexible to allow them to personalise their higher education experience, recognising the diversity of learners and their needs in Scotland.

If we are to be inclusive in our recovery, we need to ensure we bring everyone on the journey and that requires developing the talents and skills of all of Scotland’s people.

The OU prides itself on its opening up educational opportunities for all. We believe that where you end up is more important than where you started – and more UK CEOs have studied with the OU than any other university.

We’re proud to have recently launched a new Skills for Work portal in partnership with SCVO and all of Scotland’s thirty-two local authorities to provide a selection of free training courses to enhance career prospects and training opportunities including those young people that will be most affected by the pandemic.

These short courses can be done at any time and at a pace which suits learners.

Learners tell us that they provide real practical skills for the workplace recognised by potential employers.

One learner said: “I gained a statement of participation and an online badge to show to future employers.” Another said: “The things I learnt were relevant to the job role that I’m in just now."   

Skills+ Scotland our prospectus for the next Scottish Parliament sets out our vision for supporting skills development to ensure that all of Scotland’s citizens play a valued and valuable part in Scotland’s growth.

This blog was originally published by Holyrood.  

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