Microsoft rallies IT troops in bid to boost UK’s basic skills

Software giant Microsoft has called on the IT industry to “roll its sleeves up” and help improve workers’ basic computer skills so they can apply for jobs.

Recent research by the firm found that one in six workers do not have the IT skills to do their job correctly, yet 80% of jobs available require people to use a computer.

Today, the company launched a free basic computer course for anyone in the UK, available through the government course provider Learndirect.

Microsoft’s head of skills and economic affairs, Stephen Uden, said it was the responsibility of employers to work with government to improve worker skills.

He told Personnel Today: “Many people are afraid of computers and it stops them getting jobs. The country as a whole is trying to raise its skills levels, but it’s going to be difficult for employers to keep finding new people if we’re not equipping people out there with some of the basic skills to operate in the world of work.

“We feel as a responsible player, representing a significant chunk of the IT industry, companies need to roll their sleeves up to improve skills levels.”

Uden said the course was available even to people whose jobs required minimal computer input, such as operating a forklift truck with a display panel and buttons.

“If people don’t come to a job with those skills, employers would have to spend the first few weeks of employment training them and giving them those skills – this is probably not what they want.”

Uden added the IT industry is expected to grow 10% by 2011, with a further an anticipated 4,600 start-up businesses. But he warned that if workers in the UK do not have key basic computer skills, then those businesses would go overseas.

The course, called the Digital Literacy Curriculum, can lead to a professional IT qualification if people take an exam accredited by awarding body OCR.

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