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Tuesday, 16 May, 2000, 03:10 GMT 04:10 UK
Unemployed offered computer training
person working on computer
Computer skills are essential in many different jobs
By BBC internet correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones

A 25m scheme to give free computer training to unemployed people is being launched.

From Tuesday, if you are out of work and claiming benefit, you can also claim 400 worth of free computer training.

The new programme, launched by the government, aims to give the unemployed skills which may be vital if they are to get jobs.

The training will be provided at about 400 venues across England.

After calling a helpline, applicants will be directed to their nearest training provider and given a free "taster" session.

After this, they can sign up for a full course which will teach word processing skills and familiarise them with the internet and e-mail.

Among the courses on offer is one for homeless people in London.

Staff from the Happy Computers training company will visit hostels and day centres to provide instruction.

Another course aims to give former miners in Nottinghamshire the skills they need to get new jobs.

Research carried out for the government found that just one in five unemployed people had a computer skills qualification.

The survey also found that 74% of people without any computer skills were from lower socio-economic groups.

There is mounting concern that a digital divide will open up between those able to participate in the information age, and those without the necessary skills.

The government is committing 25 million to the project.

But with each course costing in the region of 400, that will not go far.

The aim is to train about 50,000 people, a small minority of those eligible for the scheme.

Ministers say the funding will be reviewed if the courses prove more popular than expected.

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See also:

14 Mar 00 | Education
Computer know-how for jobseekers
28 Mar 00 | Education
Virtual classroom for workers
28 Mar 00 | UK Politics
Britain digitally divided say ministers
31 Jan 00 | Education
Centres to bridge 'digital divide'
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