Upskilling and reskilling opportunities with The Open University
The Open University’s annual Business Barometer 2021 report reveals that there is a skills shortage in nearly two thirds (62%) of businesses in Scotland and 59% of Scottish businesses say they have struggled due to the skills shortage. The report also mentions that the demand for microcredentials and modules has increased especially from people who have been affected by the pandemic, are facing redundancy or furlough. We know the skills shortage in the UK is affecting multiple industries and looking at government publications like the Shortage Occupations List, STEM roles are heavily affected by a shortage of skilled workers. Some of these roles include Science, Engineering, IT, Medicine, Therapy, Trades and Production amongst others.
We spoke with Page Munro, Partnerships Officer at The Open University (OU) in Scotland to learn more about some of the upskilling and reskilling opportunities for women in STEM as well as some of the funding available to potential applicants.
Can you introduce yourself and tell us about your role as a Partnership Officer?
My name is Page Munro and I am a Partnerships Officer at The Open University (OU) in Scotland. I have been at the OU in Scotland for nearly nine years. I help manage the OU in Scotland’s upskilling and reskilling funded opportunities, as well as some of our employability programmes.
The Open University is a long-term partner of Equate Scotland. How do you support gender equality in STEM?
We have been working with Equate Scotland for a number of years and co-created a free course called Return to STEM, on the OU’s OpenLearn website. We encourage our STEM students to take part in all of the fantastic opportunities offered by Equate Scotland. In recent years, Equate Scotland conducted an independent review of our web and prospectus content and ran unconscious bias training sessions. Following their feedback on our marketing campaigns from a gender perspective, we developed new materials for those subject areas with a significant gender imbalance and these advertising campaigns are now running successfully.
What role can The Open University play to reduce the skills shortage?
The Open University is committed to providing upskilling opportunities for individuals and businesses across the whole of Scotland. Our huge range of learning opportunities mean that people can gain new skills alongside their other commitments, whatever they may be. From free short courses to full degrees, the OU has a study option that will suit everyone. Because of our open access policy, it doesn’t matter where you live or what qualifications you’ve got – if you want to gain new skills, the OU is here to help you.
Can microcredentials be one of the solutions to develop the skills we need in Scotland?
Microcredentials are a fantastic way for people in Scotland to gain the skills that our country needs to thrive. These short courses have been created to help people gain in-demand skills and academic credits in areas such as business, management, computing and sustainability. They’re a range of 10-week undergraduate courses and 12-week postgraduate courses. The social learning aspect of the courses means that learners from different locations and sectors can share ideas and learn from each other.
What are the employability and industry skills organisations look for? Where do you see the most opportunities for women looking to enter or return to STEM?
When I’m speaking to organisations, digital/technical skills and leadership/management skills are the areas where they most need to develop. Employers often cite industry-specific skills as an area where candidates are often lacking as well. Scotland is fast becoming a leader is some exciting sectors like financial technology, data and renewable energy. These sectors have many dynamic and rewarding opportunities for women looking to enter or return to STEM.
Can you tell us more about the upskilling and reskilling programme at the Open University? Who is it for?
We receive funds from many Scottish Government funding streams to help support upskilling and reskilling across Scotland. I primarily work on our programmes for individuals, and we support a wide range of people, from those who are looking to upskill or advance in their current role to those who want to upskill or reskill into a brand new career.
Is there any funding available to women who would be interested in applying but do not have the finances to do so? What are the criteria?
Yes! If you live in Scotland and your personal – not household – income is £25k or less, you could be eligible to study formal OU undergraduate courses for free, with a part-time fee grant. The main start dates are February and October. We will also be offering some fully-funded places on our short Microcredential courses which start in March 2022. To be eligible for this funding, applicants would need to be aged 18+, resident in Scotland and either be a UK citizen or have the legal right to live and work in the UK.
Where can women find more information about these programmes? Who can they contact if they are not quite sure what’s the right programme for them?
Applications for formal OU study are open now and there is more information at www.open.ac.uk/scotland/study. If you’re interested in applying for a Microcredential course you can find more information at www.open.ac.uk/courses/choose/scotland-micro. Applications will open in early January 2022 – you can sign up to our mailing list at the website above and we can notify you as soon as they go live. If you have any questions, you can contact me and my team at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to help!
Do you have any advice or tips to share with women students, professionals, or returners who are part of Equate’s network?
I am a real believer in lifelong learning. Whether it’s listening to a podcast, reading an article or doing a short course on our free learning portal OpenLearn, I try to learn something new as much as I can. The world is changing so fast and continuous learning is so important to both our working and personal lives. Even things I’ve learned about due to personal interest have often come in handy in my working life or even helped me connect with a new acquaintance.
Page Munro, Partnerships Officer at The Open University (OU).