When studying just clicks

More than a million and a half people have tried the Government's e-learning service

In a world where the keyboard is king, many people feel stranded on the island of the under-qualified. But adult learners - from office workers in need of PowerPoint proficiency to enhance their CVs, to busy single mums who think that Qwerty is a children's TV character - now have every chance of boosting their educational qualifications. This state of affairs is thanks to learndirect, a government initiative established in 1998 to provide individual adults and entire businesses with a flexible learning option.

learndirect has become known for its computing and IT courses, but in fact the organisation has a number of other strings to its bow. The most immediately accessible of these is a national learning advice service dedicated to matching potential students with the course that best suits their learning requirements - from university degrees to short courses to weekly evening classes. The advice service runs a telephone helpline and a website and, in the past seven years, has fielded more than six million calls and had 12 million internet hits.

The organisation now has around 8,000 online learning centres across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Adults looking to acquire new skills or improve old ones can enrol on one of 584 different courses (and more than 1.5 million people have done so since 2000). Many of these teach IT skills, but there are also courses in management, finance, languages, and a variety of "skills for life".

Michelle Walker, a single mother who, at 36, had been away from education for 20 years, enrolled with learndirect when helping her son with his GCSEs. "My first course was 'helping your child'," she explains. "At the moment I'm doing a health and safety course; adult literacy and numeracy; and I'm studying for a level two NVQ in early years." Since she enrolled on her first in late 2003, Michelle has completed around 30 learndirect courses. "I want to learn more and more, and the more I learn, the more I want to learn," she says. "It's been a new beginning for me. I do far more in the community than I used to, because I've got more confidence. I always used to go along to my daughter's playgroup; now I'm helping to run it. Soon I'll be a qualified teaching assistant."

Like all the courses that learndirect runs for individuals, most of Michelle's learning is computer-based - in Michelle's case at her local centre in Wolverhampton's Low Hill - but learndirect tutors are constantly on hand to help out if she runs into difficulties. If you have home internet access, you can also do much of any given course online. One of the main selling points of a learndirect programme is its flexibility - you can set your own pace, and structure your course to fit your timetable.

Many of learndirect's centres now also run a workforce development service for businesses. In the London area alone, there are 12 "premier business centres", each of them dealing with between 600 and 1,000 companies. Tim Dobson is the managing director of Role Model Consulting, which is responsible for three such centres, in Sutton, Croydon and Wimbledon.

"Training managers within a business have to justify investment in training with a return," he says. "Training can so easily be a waste of time and money but, with learndirect, you can pick and choose what's relevant to your company."

At the moment, Dobson is in charge of the Information Technology Qualification (ITQ) project, designed to replace an old generic qualification, the European Computer Driving Lesson (ECDL). "The ITQ is a vocational qualification. We gather evidence to tailor the skills we teach to the individual needs of a company's employees. It means that you get a bespoke course tailored to what you're doing, not a generic qualification you have to pass."

Role Model Consulting train not only for IT, but for what Dobson calls "soft skills" - customer service, marketing, management and so on. And, as he admits, "not everyone's up for sitting in front of a computer all the time. But within our training schemes, people can learn individually, in workshops and groups, or on a one-to-one basis, too."

National learning advice helpline: 0800 100 900. www.learndirect.co.uk

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Recruitment Genius: Graduate / Trainee Sales Executive

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate/Trainee Sales Executive is re...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Graphic Designer - Peterborough - £18,000

£22000 - £23000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Graduate Graphic Designer...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Developer - Cambridgeshire - £23,000

£22000 - £23000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Graduate Front-End Develo...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Application Support Analyst

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003