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Learning in a Pandemic: Closing the digital skills gap during COVID-19

Sixteen million people across Europe were unemployed in September 2020, a rise of about two million since the beginning of the pandemic. At the same time, the pandemic has exposed digital divides. 42 per cent of the EU population are now at risk of digital exclusion.

FutureFit is a major training and research project upskilling over 1,000 workers at risk of job displacement. This report presents our findings from the programmes in Sweden, Denmark and Finland where the training has finished or is soon to be completed.

Key findings

  • Participants have significantly improved their digital skills during the pandemic. 95 per cent of trainees had gained better digital skills and would use the skills they had acquired from FutureFit, while 70 per cent of trainees had gained new knowledge and skills to deal with the impact of COVID-19.
  • Virtual social environments and online learning enabled people to feel supported and connected, and improved their learning experience. 80 per cent of trainees who actively engaged through Slack, a communication platform, had a very high sense of belonging. Around 85 per cent of the trainees who did make new friends had participated in all the live engagement sessions and/or had been active on Slack.
  • Older workers improved their digital skills and understanding about the impact of digitisation by 60 per cent. Workers over the age of 50 – that now make up about a third of the EU workforce – felt less scared of new technologies (e.g. Facebook, Zoom) and more self-confident when they completed training.
  • During the pandemic, time constraints have become even more likely to interrupt learners’ participation. Many adults could not incorporate training into their spare time due to family responsibilities and work. Trainees reported low motivation and lack of support from employers and family as significant barriers to completing both off and online learning.


Chrystalla Kapetaniou

Chrystalla Kapetaniou

Chrystalla Kapetaniou

Principal Researcher, Future of Work

Dr Chrystalla Kapetaniou is a Principal Researcher.

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