U.K. Gov’t-Funded Startup Skills Courses Get 12,000 Early Sign Ups

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Some early stats on uptake for a U.K. government-funded initiative to teach digital business skills: more than 12,000 people have registered for a clutch of free online courses which launched last November.

Arrayed under the banner of the Digital Business Academy, the tech-industry backed initiative has deliberated focused on teaching non-technical business skills, such as marketing, rather than addressing core programming — aiming to avoid overlapping with organizations and businesses that are focused on the latter area.

The Academy started out offering eight free online courses covering a range of skills areas — from setting up a startup, to sizing an idea, developing and managing digital products, making a marketing plan and understanding business finance.

A ninth course has now been added to the Academy, entitled ‘How to track performance in an early-stage startup’, with content supplied by Founder Centric. Other course content is supplied by Cambridge Judge Business School and UCL. With steering organisation behind the Academy, Tech City UK, saying it is looking for further content providers.

Associated course rewards and incentives — such as mentoring and internship opportunities — which aim to encourage course completion are being provided by 43 partner organisations — including the BBC, O2, Twitter and Techstars. (Although course completers aren’t guaranteed reward opportunities; it’s more a case of complete a free course and be given the chance to apply for an opportunity.)

Thus far, the course completion rate is being pegged at a rather non-specific “up to 26%” — which presumably means it varies based on the individual course in question. It’s not clear how much variance there is the completion rate, or what is the overall course completion rate for all students. (We’ve asked, and will update this article with any response.) Instead, the Academy’s PR machine is lauding 26% as almost 4x the industry average for course completion rates. More data is clearly needed to quantify that claim.

Other partial stats being released today: the majority (56%) of “current users” — which presumably means fewer than the 12,000+ total registrations — say they want to start their own business, while over a fifth (23%) are aiming to grow an existing business, and another fifth (21%) want to acquire digital skills in order to get a job. The Academy also says that close to half (48%) of registered users are under 30, with over a third (39%) being over 35.