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Pearson creates new portal to support UK workers furloughed or out of work owing to COVID-19

UK Learns,, a new online portal being launched today, will offer UK workers up to £5 million of free online courses to help kickstart careers stalled by the global pandemic.

Created by Pearson, the world’s learning company, UK Learns provides a carefully curated selection of online courses to help the UK workforce learn new skills and earn qualifications or accreditations that could open up better job and career opportunities. 

UK Learns will offer hundreds of courses at launch, all designed to support workers who find themselves either furloughed or out of work owing to COVID-19. Pearson has worked with partners including FutureLearn, OU OpenLearn, the School of Marketing and the National Extension College, to curate a range courses to suit different learners in different sectors.

The majority of courses initially available will require fewer than 20 hours of learning and cover the full spectrum of industry sectors. Most will be self-study or scheduled study with a tutor, which then result in an accreditation valued by employers. Options include everything from courses in data science or programming, to entrepreneurship and softer skills such as building resilience, digital literacy and communications skills. 

Rod Bristow, president, Pearson UK, said:“Millions of UK workers have seen their jobs impacted by COVID-19 and as the world’s learning company, we wanted to help address this urgent situation. We have created UK Learns to give people the opportunity to learn new skills and earn accreditations that are valued by employers, for free. We hope that this will open up new career opportunities for learners and help the UK workforce get back on its feet quickly once the global pandemic has eased.”

Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills, Gillian Keegan, said: 

“It is vital that people are able to develop the skills they need to succeed and I welcome the excellent work carried out by UK Learns at this time when access to online learning has never been more important. This new portal, along with The Skills Toolkit, offers anyone looking to boost their skills an excellent opportunity to build their confidence and get ahead in work, while also helping to create the skilled workforce employers need.” 

Support for UK Learns from partners:

Simon Nelson, CEO of FutureLearn said: “At FutureLearn our mission is to transform access to education, and we are incredibly proud to partner with Pearson for the launch of UK Learns, a resource that has been built to do just that. We hope that the free and flexible courses available through UK Learns will help to equip those whose working lives have been impacted by the pandemic with the valuable skills they need to build and boost their careers.”

Roxanne Stockwell, Principal of Pearson College London, said:“In these unprecedented times, our wonderful College community has come together to provide a special range of mini-courses to inspire and support people to explore new possibilities. Our courses are a chance to work live with tutors, develop a new skill, complete a project and receive feedback along the way. Delivered by our experts here at Escape Studios and Pearson Business School, we’re proud to offer these complimentary courses via UK Learns, and provide an introduction to highly relevant digital, creative and business skills that will be valuable in the workplace.”

Jane Roberts, Head of OpenLearn, said: “Our world leading expertise and capability in online teaching shapes our free, short courses on our OpenLearn platform. We’re very proud of all of our amazing free content and we’ve seen a huge increase in visitor numbers in these unprecedented times and it’s been incredibly humbling to know we’ve been able to help so many people, families and communities. UK Learns is a great opportunity to further support workers affected by COVID-19 and we are delighted that our OpenLearn courses are included in this initiative.”

Dr Ros Morpeth OBE, CEO of the National Extension College, commented: “Creating opportunities for lifelong learning has always been at the heart of the National Extension College’s mission. In this unprecedented period of adversity and disruption, many people are using the time to reflect on how they want to shape their lives in the future. For some, especially those who have seen their livelihoods diminished, or who have been enduring jobs that they don’t enjoy, this will be the catalyst to start planning a change of career.

“UK Learns is the perfect starting point for this journey; it gives the opportunity to try out a range of different courses and learn new skills all from the same platform. The National Extension College is delighted to be in at the beginning of this exciting and worthwhile new venture and we wish it well.”

Ritchie Mehta, School of Marketing, commented:“The make-up of the workforce is going to look dramatically different in the coming months and years. What is absolutely clear is that ‘digital’ is going to play a much larger and important role in all our lives. Preparing now for this reality is not an option but an essential, and there is a lot of work that stills needs to be done. Our digital marketing skills programme sits at the heart of this and will help those impacted by the crisis to up-skill and re-train in this critically important area, in order to help them take their next steps into employment or self-employment.”

Anne Francke, CEO, Chartered Management Institute, said: “CMI is delighted to support UK Learns, alongside our partner Pearson, in its efforts to help rebuild British business by boosting the crucial management and leadership skills needed at this time. Clear communication, risk and change management will be of paramount importance for every sector. CMI’s content will help managers to improve, adapt and test their skills in the current environment. By offering learners a pathway to Chartered status we hope to further boost their confidence and capability in restarting the economy.”

Support for UK Learns from the business community:

Alan Jope, CEO, Unilever, said: “The current pandemic will have a long-lasting impact on jobs, and it’s therefore vital that we support people who may have to find their way back to work doing something different.  Young people are being particularly impacted, through the slowdown in the hospitality sector – where early employment is often found – and interruption to training and education.  Ensuring people are prepared for the workplace after COVID-19 will be critical to build back the global economy, and UK Learns is an invaluable resource for people who want to learn a new skill or retrain.” 

Paul Polman, Chair, ICC, said: “As the economy is going through a major transition and we need to redesign for a better future, UK Learns is an important initiative to ensure that the right skills are acquired to succeed in this new world.“

Mark Read, CEO of WPP, said: “The skills people need in the modern workplace were changing before COVID-19; as with so many other things, the pandemic has accelerated that shift. UK Learns is an important initiative that will not only help individuals whose careers have been affected, but support the economic recovery in a post-coronavirus world.”

Matthew Fell, Chief UK Policy Director, CBI, said:“Access to online learning has never been more important. Those who broaden their skills are more likely to improve their long-term career prospects. Learning opportunities can also positively impact individual wellbeing at this time.

“Firms will welcome the wide range of courses available on UK Learns, plus the platform’s focus on building attributes like communication, listening and resilience. Businesses place as high a value on character, as they do on the knowledge and capabilities of their staff.  All three are all essential for thriving in the world of work.”


About UK Learns

UK Learns is a portal created by Pearson providing UK workers with a carefully curated selection of online courses to help them learn new skills and earn qualifications or accreditations that could open up better job and career opportunities. It was created to support people who find themselves furloughed or out of work owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. At launch, there are nearly 400 different courses available from Pearson and a number of partners. Courses range from online short courses – either self- or guided-study – through to GSCE Maths and post-graduate courses from Pearson’s university partners. More courses will be added as the site evolves.

About Pearson

We are the world’s learning company with more than 22,500 employees operating in 70 countries. We provide content, assessment and digital services to learners, educational institutions, employers, governments and other partners globally. We are committed to helping equip learners with the skills they need to enhance their employability prospects and to succeed in the changing world of work. We believe that wherever learning flourishes so do people.

About FutureLearn

Here at FutureLearn, our purpose is to transform access to education. We do that by partnering with over a quarter of the world’s top universities to support over 12 million learners across the globe to develop skills and achieve their personal and professional goals. We’re a leading social learning platform founded in December 2012 by The Open University and are now jointly owned by The Open University in the UK and The SEEK Group. We use design, technology and partnerships to create enjoyable, credible and flexible short online courses and microcredentials, as well as undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. In addition to top universities, we also partner with leading organisations such as Accenture, the British Council, CIPD, Raspberry Pi and Health Education England (HEE), as well as being involved in government-backed initiatives to address skills gaps such as The Institute of Coding and the National Centre for Computing Education.


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