A leading Cumbrian training provider has called on the government to improve internet access in rural areas of the county to ensure people out of work aren’t being left behind.
PHX Training, which has job centres in Carlisle, Barrow and Workington, moved all of its training courses online to reduce the risk of Covid-19, but has found poor internet speeds in the county are creating barriers to employment.
Recent government figures show that the Eden, Carlisle and Allerdale areas of Cumbria have some of the slowest internet speeds in the UK. In Eden, one in 11 households have download speeds slower than 10 megabytes per second, the Government’s benchmark of acceptable broadband speeds. When it comes to superfast broadband, the story is even worse, with almost 16 per cent of families unable to access it, compared to just four per cent in the rest of the UK.
In Allerdale and Carlisle, one in 30 households are also limited to similarly poor internet speeds. Both areas are slower than the national average, where 98 per cent of households have access to acceptable broadband speeds, according to communications regulator Ofcom’s latest ‘Connected Nations’ report.
The slow internet speeds mean that job seekers across Cumbria are being unfairly hindered in their attempts to access online learning, according to PHX Training managing director Briony Fawcett.
She said: “We’ve always known that our rural location in Cumbria means that we tend to suffer from poorer internet access, but with training courses and functional skills now moving online because of Covid-19 for the foreseeable future, people who need the extra support are being left behind.
“In the past, people would access libraries or training centres like ours to access courses, but people now feel safer accessing them from home so it’s vital they make sure that they can do that without struggling with slow internet problems.
“We need to make sure that everyone is on a level playing field with access to a good quality internet, wherever they live.”
PHX Training delivers government-backed initiatives including adult skills including maths, English and vocational courses, employability contracts and apprenticeships.
PHX Training specialises in apprenticeship qualifications in business administration skills, offering learners skills for roles such as office executive, office supervisor, membership administrator and personal administrator. Apprenticeships delivered by PHX also include team leading, customer service, hospitality, management and warehousing across the North West.
The PHX team of qualified trainers also offers a diverse range of resources including offline, online and face-to-face services at six training centres in Barrow, Carlisle, Workington, Morecambe, Preston and Blackpool.