IT skills plan for homes

Organisations are to be encouraged, again, to offer their staff Home
Computing Initiatives (HCI) schemes as part of a renewed push to increase IT
literacy in the UK.

Guidelines are due to be published on 26 January by the Government’s Office
of the e-Envoy to build on the commitment outlined in the Skills Strategy paper
which aimed to help adults gain IT literacy as a third ‘skill for life’
alongside literacy and numeracy.

Employer-provided HCIs will enable companies to loan computers to their
employees as a tax-free benefit.

The added appeal for HR and training professionals could come from the
potential to reduce National Insurance contributions, but many employers have
been slow to appreciate the benefits, despite tax breaks being in place since
1999, and rallying calls for IT empowerment from prominent government figures.
Chancellor Gordon Brown, for example, has been vocal about "bridging the
digital divide" since October 2000.

Home-study modules are usually provided in the schemes, commonly covering
the European Computer Driving Licence. The computers should appeal to employees
who want to boost their IT skills and to have an first or second computer at
home to be used for general ‘family learning’.

Two organisations which recently took up the HCI option are the Royal Mail
and the Royal London Society for the Blind (RLSB). The RLSB implemented it
throughout 2003 for its workforce at its Kent HQ and engineering factory and
employment services in North London, where computer access is limited.

"Accessibility and inclusiveness are clearly important and we need to
reflect this in the benefits available to staff," said senior RLSB IT
technician Simon Perryman. "The board was equally convinced by the
potential to increase IT literacy across the organisation. In fact, one of the
senior managers was the first to sign up to the scheme," he said.

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