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Skills support for workers in furlough or facing redundancy

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Employees in Scotland who are in furlough or face redundancy due to COVID-19 are being encouraged to apply for a new selection of fully funded modules by The Open University in Scotland that offer vital post-pandemic skills.

Supported by the Scottish Funding Council’s Upskilling Fund, the modules have been selected by The Open University (OU) and Partnership Action for Continuing Employment (PACE) to address specific Scottish skills gaps in IT, business, maths and engineering and support workers to reskill.

The Upskilling Modules will be delivered online through flexible distance learning from October 2020 and they are open to everyone with no previous qualifications required. Applications must be submitted by 24 July 2020 at

Marie Hendry, Depute Director, External Engagement and Partnerships, at The Open University in Scotland, said:
“The OU was established with a social mission. We want to enable everyone to access high quality university education, to develop their skills and improve their career prospects.  As we face this uncertain future, this has never been needed more.  

“Drawing on the OU’s expertise in online learning and its work to reskill and upskill the Scottish workforce, we want to offer solutions which help minimise the impact for people and businesses as a result of the current economic situation.”

75% of Open University students in Scotland fit study around full or part-time jobs. The time commitment for the Upskilling Modules being offered is 300 hours, roughly 8-hours a week. A flexible study approach means students can fit learning in with your other life commitments and continue if work circumstances change.

Like all OU qualifications, modules could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation or honours degree.

Dr Donna MacKinnon, Director of Access, Learning and Outcomes at the Scottish Funding Council, said:
“These new Open University modules are an immediate and accessible resource for people wanting to develop new skills for employment and are designed to meet real needs in the future Scottish economy. I’m delighted to see our funding used in such a responsive and relevant way.” 

The OU in Scotland is working with its partners in PACE, Skills Development Scotland and Scottish Union Learning (SUL) in order to reach potential employees and those facing redundancy who could benefit from the scheme.

Calum MacLean, National Career Information Advice and Guidance Manager at Skills Development Scotland, said: 
“An important part of the PACE offer is providing opportunities for learning and training. As we go through this period of uncertainty for many employees, these courses from the OU are a valuable resource for people who are furloughed or facing redundancy, enabling them to upskill or learn new skills, which will help with future career prospects.”

The Upskilling Modules initiative is part of a range of activity led by The Open University in Scotland to support employees and businesses impacted by the pandemic.

This includes working with the Scottish Government and Skills Development Scotland to develop access to free online courses for furloughed workers on, supporting employers and unions on the reskilling of workforces, and offering free places on relevant workplace courses like coding or microcredentials.  

There has also been significant take-up of the OU’s free, informal learning resources on its website by people who want to develop their skills during lockdown.

The number of unique visitors to OpenLearn every day has trebled since lockdown began, with more than 1 million course enrolments. This includes a dedicated suite of Employability Badged Open Courses to help those facing careers choices.


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