Guidance

National Skills Fund

An overview of the National Skills Fund which aims to help adults to train and gain the valuable skills they need to improve their job prospects and support the economy.

Overview

The government is investing £2.5 billion in the National Skills Fund. The National Skills Fund will help adults to train and gain the valuable skills they need to improve their job prospects. It will support the immediate economic recovery and future skills needs by boosting the supply of skills that employers require.

The Chancellor announced £375 million for the National Skills Fund at the Spending Review in November 2020. This includes £95 million of additional funding to give adults free access to level 3 qualifications. Hundreds of courses have been carefully selected to support adults to gain skills leading to jobs in sectors such as construction, healthcare and digital. The announcement also included £43 million to expand skills bootcamps, which have the potential to transform the skills landscape for adults and employers.

Free level 3 qualifications for adults

Any adult aged 19 and over who wants to achieve their first full level 3 qualification, which is equivalent to an advanced technical certificate or diploma, or A levels, can now access hundreds of fully-funded courses.

This offer is part of the Lifetime Skills Guarantee announced by the Prime Minister in September 2020. It represents a long-term commitment to remove the age constraints and financial barriers for adults looking for their first level 3 qualification so that they can access training to enable them to progress.

Courses are available in a variety of lengths, to support adults to get the skills they need to boost their careers.

19 to 23 year olds can also access additional courses for free through their legal entitlement to a first full level 3 qualification.

Sector subject areas and courses available

The qualifications have been carefully chosen to help adults improve their job prospects. They have good wage outcomes and will address skills needs in the economy, delivering a wide range of skills in many jobs and sectors.

See the list of the qualifications included in the offer for more information. You can also find them by using the ‘qualifications offer’ filter in the qualifications search service.

Qualifications are currently available in:

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

We will keep the qualifications list and sector-subject areas in scope under review to ensure this offer responds to changing labour market needs.

Awarding organisations, Mayoral Combined Authorities and the Greater London Authority can suggest additions to the list through the qualifications funding approval process if they meet the criteria.

Funding arrangements for providers

Funding for the level 3 adult offer will be routed via Mayoral Combined Authorities and the Greater London Authority for residents in those areas of England.

Funding for the level 3 adult offer for residents in all other areas of England will be routed via the adult education budget and administered by the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA). More information on funding for the level 3 adult offer for 2020 to 2021 is available in:

Funding uplift

The government has provided an uplift for each qualification delivered as part of this offer, to support providers to scale up the delivery of level 3 provision for adults. The following uplifts have been applied to the funding rates for all qualifications included in this offer:

  • £600 per-qualification uplift for qualifications of 360 guided learning hours or above
  • £150 per-qualification uplift for qualifications of 359 guided learning hours or below

We want to enable providers to deliver these qualifications for adults, even if there is a higher demand than expected. ESFA-funded providers are able to over-deliver on their level 3 adult offer allocation by up to 50% from April to July 2021.

Arrangements are also in place to ensure Mayoral Combined Authorities and the Greater London Authority can fund additional demand in April to July 2021. Details about arrangements to enable providers to expand capacity in line with demand from August 2021 will be provided in the funding rules for the academic year 2021 to 2022.

Course materials for providers

Jisc have published a detailed reading list for organisations delivering level 3 adult courses as part of the Lifetime Skills Guarantee.

Skills bootcamps

As part of the Lifetime Skills Guarantee, the Prime Minister also announced the skills bootcamp programme.

Skills bootcamps offer free, flexible courses of just 12 to 16 weeks for adults aged 19 or over and who are either in work or recently unemployed (some skills bootcamps have additional eligibility criteria). They give people the opportunity to build up sector-specific skills and fast-track to an interview with a local employer.

There has been a high demand for places on the trailblazer skills bootcamps. An investment of £43 million from the National Skills Fund will enable greater availability across the country and a wider range of course subjects on offer to meet the skills needs of local areas. New skills bootcamps will be announced later in the spring and information will be added as soon as it is available.

Subject areas

Skills bootcamps are developed in partnership with employers, colleges and local authorities, to help people develop the skills that are in demand in their local area and get a better job. They include a range of digital courses and technical skills courses.

Trailblazer skills bootcamps have included courses in:

  • software development
  • digital marketing
  • data analytics
  • welding
  • engineering
  • construction

Locations

Trailblazer skills bootcamps have been delivered in:

New skills bootcamps will be announced later in the spring and information will be added as soon as it is available.

Eligibility

The courses are open to adults aged 19 and over who are either in work or recently unemployed.

Some skills bootcamps may have additional eligibility criteria.

Further information

Information is also available for:

Adults claiming Universal Credit will be able to train full time, towards a work-related qualification, for up to 12 weeks, or up to 16 weeks on a full time skills bootcamp in England, while receiving Universal Credit to support their living costs.

Published 9 December 2020
Last updated 1 April 2021 + show all updates
  1. Updated to reflect that free level 3 qualifications for adults are now available.

  2. Updated the information about the level 3 adult offer including the funding arrangements for providers.

  3. First published.