From education to employment
1st for EPA headline banner ad

Skills for Life: Free courses for jobs

Details of the free courses and qualifications to help adults (19+) gain skills for life, including eligibility criteria and how to apply.

If you are aged 19 or over you could access a course for free, as part of the support available from the government to help you access the skills you need to get the job you want – whatever your stage of life.

The free courses include level 3 qualifications and Skills Bootcamps. The government pays the course fees.

Free qualifications for adults

If you are 19 or over and do not already have a level 3 qualification or higher, you can access a free level 3 qualification. Level 3 is equivalent to an advanced technical certificate or diploma, or A levels.

If you earn below the National Living Wage annually (£18,525) or are unemployed, from April you will also be able to access these qualifications for free.

Some of these qualifications are available to study online or part-time.

You may be able to get help to pay for childcare, travel and other costs.

The qualifications could help you:

  • gain skills that employers value
  • improve your job prospects
  • earn a good wage

Read real-life examples of how a free qualification could help you get ahead in work.

Find out more about how the government is supporting you to gain skills for life, whatever stage of your career.


You can access one of the free level 3 qualifications if you are aged 19 or over and do not already have a level 3 qualification (equivalent to an advanced technical certificate or diploma, or A levels) or higher.

If you’re 19 to 23 years old, you could also access additional qualifications for free. If you’re in this age group, contact your local college or the National Careers Service for further information.

If you earn below the National Living Wage annually (£18,525) or are unemployed, from April you will also be able to access these qualifications for free. This is regardless of any prior qualifications you have.

If you are not eligible for this offer, Advanced Learner Loans are available to help you cover the costs of learning, which you pay back when you are earning over a certain amount.

Courses available

Qualifications are currently available in:

  • 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

For more information, you can:

How to apply

If you’re eligible, you will not have to pay for your level 3 qualification. The government will pay the course fees.

  1. Use the National Careers Service course finder to see which courses are available for free in your local area or online. You can set the distance you are willing to travel.
  2. Contact the college or training provider. You can confirm they offer the qualification you’re interested in, check the admissions criteria and apply for the course in the normal way.
  3. If you’re accepted onto the course you will not have to pay a course fee. You may also be able to get help to pay for childcare, travel and other costs.

Skills Bootcamps

Skills Bootcamps offer free, flexible courses of up to 16 weeks. They help you to build up specialist in-demand skills and fast-track to an interview with an employer.

Skills Bootcamps are being delivered in partnership with employers, providers and local authorities to help people gain skills for life.

Subjects available

Skills Bootcamps are available in:

  • digital courses such as digital marketing or coding
  • technical training in skills like engineering or welding
  • green skills like solar energy
  • construction
  • logistics (HGV driving)

View the list of Skills Bootcamps to see what’s available in your area, or online, and what’s coming soon. This list will grow as more Skills Bootcamps become available.


You are eligible to apply for a Skills Bootcamp if you are:

  • aged 19 or over
  • employed, self-employed, have recently become unemployed or are returning to work after a break
  • serving a prison sentence and you are due to be released within 6 months of completing a Skills Bootcamp, or you are on temporary release

Some Skills Bootcamps have additional eligibility criteria.

How to apply

The list of Skills Bootcamps provides links and locations for existing, new and upcoming courses. You can find out which providers are offering courses in your area, and visit their webpage for further information.

Read real-life examples of how a Skills Bootcamp could fast-track you to a better job.

Get advice and support

The National Careers Service offers free and impartial advice to help with decisions about careers, training courses and work.

Your local authority or Jobcentre Plus may offer additional free courses.

If you claim Universal Credit, you can apply for one of these free courses, provided it will improve your chances of securing work. Many Universal Credit claimants can currently take full-time training up to 12 weeks, and up to 16 weeks for a full-time Skills Bootcamp in England. Your local Jobcentre Plus can offer further guidance about this and help to identify the learning that works for you.

You may also be interested in work-based training, including apprenticeships. An apprenticeship is a real job where you learn, gain experience, and get paid. Find out more about apprenticeships and other government-funded training opportunities that can help you gain skills for life.

Information for providers and employers

Information is available for colleges and training providers on the National Skills Fund.

Information is available for employers about training and employment schemes.Published 1 April 2021
Last updated 21 January 2022 – hide all updates

  1. 21 January 2022Updated the information on the National Living Wage in the ‘Free qualifications for adults’ section and the eligibility in the ‘Skills Bootcamps’ section.
  2. 26 November 2021Updated the information about adults who claim Universal Credit. Also updated the ‘Free qualifications for adults’ eligibility section to confirm that from April 2022, any adult in England earning under the National Living Wage will also be able to access these qualifications for free, regardless of their prior qualification level.
  3. 27 September 2021Added information to confirm that Skills Bootcamps are quality assured by Ofsted and updated Skills Bootcamps subjects available to reflect the range of courses available.
  4. 18 September 2021Removed the information about the National Skills Fund consultation as the consultation has now closed.
  5. 13 September 2021Added a link to the National Careers Service course finder which you can use to see which courses are available for free in your local area or online.
  6. 29 July 2021Added ‘hospitality and catering’ to the list of subjects available and updated ‘eligibility’ and ‘how to apply’ sections.
  7. 15 July 2021We have added information about Skills Bootcamps including details on how to apply and a link to the list of available Skills Bootcamps. We have also added a link to our consultation on the National Skills Fund.
  8. 10 May 2021Added information about a temporary extension to the length of time people can undertake training to develop work-related skills and qualifications while still receiving Universal Credit.
  9. 1 April 2021First published.
Recommend0 recommendationsPublished in Resources

Related Articles

City & Guilds Associate Vacancies available - FE News