Sainsbury’s and the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) have formed a partnership to provide an estimated 15,000 hours of training per week to help tackle England’s IT skills shortage.
The £15 million venture will serve IT qualifications to shoppers by creating three new I.T.Now@Sainsbury’s learning centres. Led by the LSC’s National Contracts Service and Newbury and Reading Colleges, the new initiative is designed to take business-relevant courses to learners rather than waiting for learners to come to them.
Shoppers will be able to combine their weekly shop with IT tuition, which will be available during supermarket opening hours at the in-store IT learning centres. The tuition can be followed at the student’s own pace and over 200 courses will be available. All courses will provide industry recognised training in a variety of programmes from basic word processing to advanced courses in web design and digital cameras. The concept was first tested at the Sainsbury’s Calcot (Reading) store where 3,000 people graduated over 22 months. The success of this project, supported by Newbury and Reading Colleges, has led to the project’s wider roll-out throughout England.
The three new I.T.Now@Sainsbury’s learning centres will be opened by March 2003 and will be managed by local Further Education Colleges, Sainsbury’s and the LSC. The stores that have been selected are Oldbury (West Midlands), Camden (North London) and Woolwich (London). The Sainsburys stores and partnering colleges were chosen for LSC funding because of their location and the learning needs of the surrounding populations.
Newbury and Reading Colleges, continuing to work in partnership, will provide support during the roll out and for the co-ordination of activities within the centres.
Sara Weller, Assistant Managing Director of Sainsbury's Supermarket Ltd said: "Working alongside the Learning & Skills Council enables us to reach out to local communities at the same time as offering customers the opportunity to learn more about computers. When we tested the IT learning centre in Reading, over 1,000 people enrolled within the first 6 months, taking advantage of 5,000 hours of training a week. We have no doubt that the three new centres will be equally as successful."
LSC Chairman Bryan Sanderson said that "the LSC is extremely pleased to be joining with Sainsbury’s to open doors to learners who might not have the opportunity or would otherwise be too scared to turn on a computer. The accessibility of the learning centres is key to reducing the fear factor or inconvenience involved in taking that first step.
"Adults of all ages should be able to access learning opportunities, develop their careers and make imaginative use of Information Communication Technology (ICT) in their businesses. To achieve this we must bridge the gap between the computer 'haves' and 'have nots' – people who can’t afford access or who are too scared to take the first step towards learning."