Do you have a question about the National Skills Fund? Maybe you want to find out if you’re eligible? Or you'd like to learn more about the courses available?

Here, we’ve put together a guide on everything you need to know about the UK government’s National Skills Fund – from what it is to who can apply. We’ve also listed some of the things you need to consider, including course content and flexibility.

What is the National Skills Fund?

The fund is a government scheme to help adults gain new skills which could improve their job prospects. Launched in England in April 2021, the fund allocates £1.6 billion to help eligible adult learners access government funded level 3 courses.

Unveiled during the November 2020 Spending Review, the National Skills Fund is part of the government’s ongoing ‘Lifetime Skills Guarantee’ – a commitment to help adults access qualifications regardless of their age or financial status.

It’s hoped the scheme will encourage adults in England to retrain, gaining new skills to make them more employable in sectors with the most job prospects.

Who is Eligible for Free Courses as part of the National Skills Fund?

To be eligible for free training as part of the National Skills Fund, you’ll need to meet the following criteria:

  • You must be over 24
  • You must earn less than the annual National Living Wage annually (£18,525) or be unemployed, regardless of prior qualification level.
  • You must not already have a Level 3 qualification (which is the equivalent of a full A-level), even if it’s in an unrelated subject to the one you want to study
national skills fund person writing

What Courses Are Offered by the National Skills Fund?

Applicants to the National Skills Fund can gain a Level 3 qualification as part of a fully-funded learning course. The government has promised that qualifications will be available in a broad range of subject areas – particularly those with good job prospects.

From April 2021, courses became available in the following areas as part of the National Skills Fund, including the below:

  • accounting and finance
  • agriculture
  • building and construction
  • business management
  • childcare and early years
  • digital
  • engineering
  • environmental conservation
  • health and social care
  • horticulture and forestry
  • hospitality and catering
  • manufacturing technologies
  • mathematics and statistics
  • medicine and dentistry
  • public services
  • science
  • teaching and lecturing
  • transportation operations and maintenance
  • warehousing and distribution

The areas listed above, earmarked by the government, are believed to be of the most value from a career prospects standpoint. It’s not yet clear if more course options will be added to the fund in the future.

Things to Consider Before Applying to the National Skills Fund

While the government is touting the National Skills Fund as a huge boon for adult learners, there are a few things to note before you apply. Here, we’ll address some of the things you should consider before applying for a course through the fund.

Course Content

One thing missing from the government’s National Skills Fund Guidance is information on the content of the courses themselves. Remember, adult learning courses vary a lot in quality and variety. That may not be a deal-breaker for people just looking to improve their career prospects, but it could be an important factor for those in need of a fun and stimulating learning experience.

Studying with an independent provider like Oxbridge gives you greater assurance that the course will not only help boost your career prospects but be engaging and enjoyable too.

Reduced Flexibility

Flexibility is often a prerequisite of adult learning. With busy lives to manage alongside their studies, many adult learners prefer courses that offer things like remote working, flexible hours and variable course lengths (i.e. full-time or part-time courses).

While the government has promised some flexibility in terms of course length, the courses available as part of the National Skills Fund may not wholly meet the needs of all adult learners, which is definitely something to think about if flexibility is your main consideration when choosing courses.

Lack of Study Support

There are lots of times during your studies when you may need extra help and support. That’s why Oxbridge provides personal tutor support, so our students can get expert help as and when they need it.

When you enrol on one of our courses, you’re assigned a personal course tutor who is there to help you throughout your course. That means if you get stuck or need someone to talk to, advice is only one click away.

This may not be the case with the fund. Study support is a provision offered by independent learning providers, so you may miss out on some of the benefits of having on-demand help during your studies if you opt for this route.

Limited Course Options

Granted, the government’s list of free courses available through the National Skills Fund may look impressive on paper. But there are so many other learning options out there through which you can diversify your skillset.

The National Skills Fund is limited to courses which the government believes offer the most career prospects. But that doesn’t mean you can’t study what you want – especially if you have big ambitions in another field.

By studying with us, you won't be limited to just a handful of course options. Instead, you can pick from a huge range of courses in all sorts of interesting areas – whether it’s animal care, design and photography, sports and fitness, or writing and journalism.

Don’t forget, in its list of free courses, the government is responding to the needs of the economy. That means, while the National Skills Fund is a great incentive for many adult learners, you can still dream big and tread your own path – no matter what your aspirations for the future.

We hope this guide sheds light on the National Skills Fund and who can benefit most from it. At Oxbridge, we’re passionate about providing the very best learning experiences to people of all ages, regardless of their goals. For more information on our complete range of courses, visit the homepage or call our experienced course advisers on 0121 630 3000.