An estimated 11 million adults now have the opportunity to gain a new qualification for free, designed to help them to gain in-demand skills and secure great jobs.

Almost 400 qualifications are available to take from today (1 April) - backed by £95 million in government funding in 2021/22 - as part of the government’s Lifetime Skills Guarantee.

The roll out marks a major milestone in the delivery of the landmark Lifetime Skills Guarantee - announced by the Prime Minister in September 2020 at Exeter College.

  • Launch of free qualifications a major milestone in government’s Lifetime Skills Guarantee, allowing adults to gain the skills they need at any stage of their lives
  • Almost 400 free qualifications to choose from, including engineering, social care, and plumbing, with adults able to start courses from I April.
  • Thousands of adults already benefitting from Skills Bootcamps, giving people the chance to upskill or retrain in key sectors like construction and digital

The Guarantee aims to transform the skills system so everyone, no matter where they live or their background, can gain the skills they need to progress in work at any stage of their lives. It will also ensure employers have access to the skilled workforce they need, and more people are trained for the skills gaps that exist now, and in the future.

The government’s Skills for Jobs White Paper, published in January, enshrines the Lifetime Skills Guarantee – setting out landmark reforms that will realigning the post-16 education system around the needs of employers, so that people are trained for the skills gaps that exist now, and in the future, in sectors the economy needs, including construction, digital, clean energy and manufacturing.

The White Paper forms a key part of the government’s Plan for Jobs which is protecting, supporting and creating jobs across the country and will help everyone to benefit from the opportunities available to them. 

Boris Johnson 100x100Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:

“As we cautiously lift lockdown restrictions, the government’s focus is on recovering from the pandemic and building back better.

“The Lifetime Skills Guarantee is fundamental to that – with free courses giving adults the expertise they need to find new, better jobs.

“My message is clear. At every stage of your life, we will help you get the skills you need to train, retrain, and get into jobs you want and our economy needs.”

Gavin Williamson 100x100Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

“The launch of these free qualifications for adults is a pivotal moment in the delivery of our Lifetime Skills Guarantee, which will make sure everyone can train, retrain or upskill throughout their lives.

“As we build back better and rebuild our economy, it is vital we level up more opportunities for people across the country and help more people progress in work.

“This offer will help give millions of adults the chance to gain the skills they need to secure rewarding careers in key sectors of the economy including construction, healthcare and digital. With almost 400 to choose from, there is something there for everyone.”

Therese Coffey 100x100Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Therese Coffey MP said:

“Opening up a wider choice courses and qualifications for jobseekers could be the clincher that lands them their next job.  

“Helping people get the skills they need is a central part of our Plan for Jobs which is already supporting people of all ages into work as we build back better from the pandemic.”

Sector Reaction to the Lifetime Skills Guarantee Level 3 Qualification announcement

Toby Perkins 100x100Toby Perkins MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Further Education and Skills, said:

"You would be forgiven for thinking the Conservatives' Lifetime Skills Guarantee is an April Fool's joke, rather than a plan to help reskill our country after this pandemic.

“The Conservatives' mishandling of the Covid crisis has led the UK to experience the worst economic crisis of any major economy. Their limited plans will now leave millions unable to access the skills they need to play their part in our recovery.

“Minister should urgently widen eligibility for the Lifetime Skills Guarantee to ensure it reaches all adults who could benefit.”

tom bewick 100x100Tom Bewick, CEO of the Federation of Awarding Bodies said:

“We welcome the additional investment in adults who may have missed out on getting a Level 3 qualification in the past. 

“However, the Lifetime Skills Guarantee has deployed a flawed model. The eligibility for funding qualifications has been decided by Whitehall officials, instead of the needs of the individuals and employers in a deeply Covid affected labour market. People who have been made redundant as a result of the pandemic will be unable to retrain using this route if they have already attained a Level 3 qualification, like A-Levels, in the distant past. FAB will continue to monitor the situation carefully as the scheme rolls out. We will push for more sectors and qualifications to be included. Above all, we continue to make the case for a more joined up approach in terms of various schemes run by the Department for Work and Pensions and those managed by DfE.” 

Jane Hickie 20Dec 100x100Association of Employment and Learning Providers chief executive Jane Hickie said,

“The Guarantee is a welcome and essential development but in terms of a first qualification, we need to go much further to tackle the massive challenge of skilling adults displaced by automation or the pandemic.  One immediate issue is that it is nigh on impossible for a level 3 qualification to be delivered and completed between now and the end of the academic year which is what the government is asking independent training providers to do with their adult learners with no guarantee of funding beyond 31 July.  We have to wait for new adult education budget contracts to be awarded for 2021-22 before ITP provision can start in earnest.

“AELP is also interested to see whether the government has responded positively to requests from the combined authorities for additional qualifications to add to the approved list of qualifications.  We have considerable sympathy for the reasons behind these requests.”

David Corke 100x100David Corke, Director of Policy, Association of Colleges said:

"The recovery will be skills-led. We are facing unprecedented challenges, including a potential post-furlough shock and mass redundancies. The ability to train and retrain will never have been more important as we protect people’s livelihoods and support them to move into new employment, potentially in new sectors. It is good to see that government is offering those on Universal Credit the opportunity to study on some of the level three courses or as part of their Bootcamps scheme. It is a good start, but it needs to go further – people need to be given the opportunity to study up to the full length of their course to give them the best chance to find meaningful employment and enter into high paying jobs. Extending the scheme would be the right thing for people, for businesses and for the economy."

kirstie donnelly 100x100Kirstie Donnelly MBE, CEO City & Guilds said:

“We broadly welcome the Government’s commitment to offering adults without A-Levels the opportunity to access fully funded courses. This is certainly a step in the right direction, however these measures still seem narrow in their scope and don’t contain the creative thinking needed to address vast skills and jobs challenges that lie ahead.”

“If only those without an A-Level (or equivalent) qualification are eligible for this training, it completely overlooks huge swathes of the population who have been displaced from their industries this year and will need to completely retrain and change their skillsets now. And, while this will help social mobility, it can’t be a true lifelong skills solution if you’re only eligible once.”

Helen Tupper, co-author of Sunday Times best-selling book The Squiggly Career, said:

“Our jobs today are constantly changing and one of the ways people can increase their ability to adapt is through ongoing learning. Course fees are a barrier for many adults but the introduction of the Lifetime Skills Guarantee has significantly increased the accessibility of adult learning opportunities, making hundreds of free courses available for people to increase their employability and gain skills to progress in work or secure a better job. If you’re an adult considering your next step, I’d really encourage you to think about how new skills could boost your existing strengths and check out any free opportunities you’re eligible for.”

Dominic Harvey, Director at leading UK tech job board CWJobs comments:

 “As the Lifetime Skills Guarantee launches, it’s encouraging to see so many courses available in core tech competencies such as cybersecurity, software development and systems infrastructure. These are the vital skills the UK needs as business across all sectors entwine their strategies with their technology stack in order to recover strong from the pandemic.

“However, the fact still remains that tech skills are lacking, not just amongst those that are unemployed, but amongst the employed too – with the latter a cohort that the Lifetime Skills Guarantee does not support. It’s just as important that we develop tech skills amongst the employed; our latest analysis of the UK tech sector revealed that whilst the majority of businesses have upped their investment in tech tools and tech talent as a result of the pandemic, only a quarter (27%) of IT leaders are satisfied with their employees’ abilities to use them, due to significant shortfalls in tech training amongst the workforce. 

“To overcome the tech skills gap, a holistic and combined effort is required from businesses, Government and education bodies alike to nurture these skills amongst all phases of the pipeline. The Lifetime Skills Guarantee will prove invaluable in helping those entering the sector anew, however in the short-term, businesses need to up their focus on effective training programmes for the employees within their ranks – whether they’re in the tech team or beyond – to ensure they’re set up to truly thrive in the digital age.”

£43 million from National Skills Fund to expand pioneering ‘Skills Bootcamps’ 

As well as the free courses, as part of the Lifetime Skills Guarantee, thousands of adults have taken advantage of new Skills Bootcamps.

Skills Bootcamps, also part of the Lifetime Skills Guarantee, offer free, flexible courses of up to 16 weeks, giving people the opportunity to build up specific skills and fast-track to an interview with a local employer.  They are being developed in partnership with employers, providers and local authorities, to help people develop the skills that are in demand in their local area and get a better job.

Available for adults aged 19 and above, with a range of digital courses and technical skills courses, like construction or engineering, currently on offer, bootcamps are currently available in:

  • Liverpool City Region
  • West Midlands
  • Greater Manchester / Lancashire
  • Heart of South West
  • Leeds City Region, and
  • Derbyshire / Nottinghamshire area 

More than 2700 people have already benefited with every participant having access to  a guaranteed interview. From April until December 2021 20,000 more places will be provided across the country in digital, technical and construction skills. Skills Bootcamps will be expanded across the country later this year.

The government’s plan to support people to upskill and retrain was bolstered by £43 million from the National Skills Fund to expand the pioneering ‘Skills Bootcamps’ to other areas of England in 2021. 

The Bootcamps - which were launched in the West Midlands, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and the Liverpool City Region this autumn, offer free, flexible courses of 12-16 weeks to give people the opportunity to build up sector-specific skills and fast-track to an interview with a local employer.   

Registrations have also opened for courses in the Leeds City Region, Heart of the South West, and Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, and cover Digital Bootcamps teaching skills like software development, digital marketing, and data analytics but also technical skills training in such areas as welding, engineering, and construction.   

Alongside the new Level 3 offer, the Lifetime Skill Guarantee will also include a Lifelong Loan Entitlement which will allow adults and young people to space out their study across their lifetimes and take high-quality courses in both further education colleges and universities. 

As part of the Lifetime Skills Guarantee adults in England who are 24 and over and do not yet have A levels or equivalent can now take their first full level 3 qualification for free.

Employers can also benefit from the free Level 3 qualifications on offer by helping existing eligible staff upskill or reskill into a higher-level role in their business, without needing to fund the training.

Qualifications include:

  • Level 3 Diploma for the Early Years Workforce (Early Years Educator)
  • Level 3 Diploma in Adult Care
  • Level 3 Advanced Diploma in Accounting
  • Level 3 Diploma in Engineering Technology
  • Level 3 Diploma in Light Vehicle Maintenance and Repair Principles
  • Level 3 Diploma In Dental Nursing
  • Level 3 NVQ Diploma in Installing Electrotechnical Systems and Equipment
  • Level 3 Diploma in Counselling Skills
  • Level 3 NVQ Diploma In Decorative Finishing - Painting and Decorating
  • Level 3 Diploma in Leadership and Management


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