Digital Technology: Education

Department for Education written question – answered on 29th November 2021.

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Photo of Chi Onwurah Chi Onwurah Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what progress her Department has made on embedding digital skills within the (a) Further Education and (b) Higher Education curriculum.

Photo of Alex Burghart Alex Burghart The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

The department recognises the importance of digital skills at all levels and has introduced a range of provision to give people the opportunity to acquire the digital skills they need.

In 2020 we introduced a new digital entitlement that will enable adults with no or low digital skills to undertake new improved digital qualifications free of charge. These entitlements are based on new national standards, which set out the digital skills that people need in life and in work.

We have introduced skills bootcamps, which will provide flexible training for in-demand areas including software development, digital marketing, and data analytics, and a fast-track to an interview with a local employer. Our free courses for jobs offer supports eligible adults to access over 400 fully funded level 3 courses, including digital qualifications in areas such as cyber security, coding, network architecture, and systems support.

There are now 25 digital apprenticeships, from level 3 to degree apprenticeship, covering a range of roles including cyber security, software development and artificial intelligence (AI), providing the digital skills training in the workplace that individuals and employers need. Last year the first AI data specialist apprenticeship standard was approved for delivery at level 7. This highly skilled role champions AI, its applications and promotes the adoption of novel tools and technologies.

At levels 4 and 5, the first approved higher technical qualifications in digital occupations, such as cyber security technologist, will be ready for first teaching from September 2022.

For 16-19 year olds, digital T Levels offer a prestigious, high-quality technical option at level 3, supporting progression to occupations such as software development technician. It is not just occupations in the digital sector where good digital skills are needed, and relevant digital skills are built into every T Level qualification.

English higher education providers are autonomous institutions, which means that they have the freedom to determine the content of courses and the way their courses are taught, supervised, and assessed.

Last year, the former Secretary of State for Education, my right hon. Friend for South Staffordshire, formally commissioned Sir Michael Barber in his capacity as Chair of the Office for Students, to lead a review following the rapid shift toward digital teaching and learning in higher education since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak. The report, which was published on 25 February, builds on lessons learned through the COVID-19 outbreak and sets out recommendations to seize opportunities for the medium to long-term future. The report included a series of recommendations for higher education providers outlining what a successful approach to building digital skills looks like, with practical suggestions for action.

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