Free college courses for adults without A-Levels

At the end of September, Boris Johnson announced a lifetime skills guarantee which will provide adults without A-levels or an equivalent qualification the chance to a free college course. This guarantee has been put in place with the aim of improving people’s employability by offering them a chance to re-skill.

This announcement was after Rishi Sunak admitted he ‘cannot save every job’ as he discussed the new Job Support scheme, which will replace the current Furlough Scheme. Read our blog here to learn more about how the Job Support scheme will work.

Currently, the government only pay for the first A-level or equivalent qualification up the age of 23. By extending this to all ages, they’re hoping it will transform the skills system and give everyone the opportunity to learn.

As well as free college courses, the lifetime skills guarantee will also make higher education loans more ‘flexible’ for students, and apprenticeship opportunities will be increased due to more funding.

What college courses will be available?

The full list of courses that will be offered as part of the lifetime skills guarantee has not yet been announced, but it has been confirmed we will find out this month. The courses that will be available are said to offer ‘skills valued by employers.’

This new guarantee from the government will be paid for via the National Skills Fund and will be available from April 2021 for those living in England.

Our thoughts

As always with new initiatives the devil really is in the detail.  With colleges potentially being the only funded routeway and questions remaining over the lack of joining up with adult education budget (AEB).  These questions including the role of the education and skills advisory panels in directing spend to local needs must be addressed before this policy goes live.

Flexibility in delivery will also be key to let people combine jobs and undertake training at their own pace to suit their needs not the needs of providers or funding streams. That training should also be tailored to the local job market and the aspirations of the learner and their existing knowledge, skills and capabilities. 

The core challenge remains though in encouraging enough people to take up this scheme for adult learners, even with job losses ramping up due to the end of Furlough.  Declining participation rates for adults have been a problem before the pandemic. Understanding the needs of those made redundant and the needs of the job market will be crucial in a successful journey to life long learning for the population of the U.K. more broadly.

This is a once in a lifetime opportunity which should not be squandered.

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