What is the UK Adult Skills Fund and why it’s changed from the Adult Education Budget

In the response to the DfE consultation Skills for jobs: implementing a new further education funding and accountability system published in July 2023, the ESFA funded adult skills fund (ASF) has replaced the ESFA funded adult education budget (AEB) 

The purpose of ASF is to support adult learners in non-devolved areas to gain skills which will lead them to meaningful, sustained, and relevant employment, or enable them to progress to further learning which will deliver that outcome.

Within ASF, further provision for tailored learning is available that supports wider outcomes such as to improve health and wellbeing, equip parents/carers to support their child’s learning, and develop stronger communities.

What is the Adult Skills Fund (ASF)?

The ASF is a government-funded programme that provides financial support for adults aged 19 and over to gain new skills and qualifications. It is designed to help individuals improve their employability and career prospects, as well as support businesses in developing a skilled workforce.

The fund is managed by the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) and is available to eligible individuals through approved training providers. It covers a wide range of courses and qualifications, from basic skills and English language courses to higher-level technical and professional training.

Why has it replaced the Adult Education Budget?

The AEB was introduced in 2010 as part of the government’s efforts to improve adult education and training in the UK.

The main reason for this change was to simplify the funding process and make it more efficient.  It will consolidate seven separate funding lines into a single skills fund. 

Who is eligible for the Adult Skills Fund?

The UKASF is available to adults aged 19 and over who are living in England and who live in a non-devolved areas. 

The fund will fully fund learners who meet the residency eligibility, are aged 19 and over, and who meet the definition of being below the earnings threshold, to undertake learning:

  • up to and including level 2 qualifications from the local flexibility offer and/or
  • qualifications from the full level 2 legal entitlement qualification list

Learners aged 19 to 23 who have not previously achieved a full level 2 qualification must be fully funded, regardless of the earnings threshold, if they choose a qualification from the level 2 legal entitlement list.

Learners who have exhausted their first full level 2 entitlement and do not meet the definition of being below the earnings threshold will be co-funded.

In addition to this, the fund will also include Free courses for jobs (FCFJ) which is a targeted level 3 offer to support adults who meet the definition of being below the earnings threshold.

The offer includes:

  • level 3 qualifications which will support the development of new skills for adult learners and improve the prospects of eligible adults in the labour market. In particular, eligible adults can now access fully-funded level 3 provision from the list of level 3 FCFJ qualifications available via the DfE list of qualifications approved for funding   

There are also specific eligibility criteria for certain courses and qualifications, such as English language courses and higher-level technical training. These criteria may include prior qualifications, residency status, and employment status.

How can individuals access the Adult Skills Fund?
Individuals can access the Adult Skills Fund through approved training providers, which can be found on the ESFA’s Register of Training Organisations. These providers have been vetted by the ESFA to ensure they meet quality standards and can deliver the courses and qualifications covered by the fund.

Individuals can also contact their local Jobcentre Plus or National Careers Service for guidance on accessing the fund and finding suitable training providers.

How can businesses benefit from the Adult Skills Fund?
The UKASF not only benefits individuals looking to improve their skills and qualifications, but it also provides significant benefits for businesses in the UK.

Addressing Skills Gaps
One of the main benefits for businesses is the opportunity to address skills gaps within their workforce. With the Adult Skills Fund, businesses can access funding to upskill their employees and fill any knowledge or skill gaps that may be hindering their productivity and growth.

This is particularly beneficial for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that may not have the resources to invest in training and development for their employees.

Developing a Skilled Workforce
The Adult Skills Fund also allows businesses to develop a skilled and qualified workforce, which can lead to increased productivity and competitiveness. By investing in their employees’ skills and qualifications, businesses can ensure they have the right talent to meet their current and future needs.

Cost Savings
By accessing the Adult Skills Fund, businesses can save on the costs of training and development for their employees. The fund covers a significant portion of the training costs, reducing the financial burden on businesses.

Increased Employee Retention
Investing in employee training and development can also lead to increased employee retention. When employees feel valued and have opportunities for growth and development, they are more likely to stay with the company and contribute to its success.

The UK Adult Skills Fund, formerly the Adult Education Budget, will continue to be a valuable resource for individuals and businesses in the UK. It provides funding for workforce training and development, helps to address skills gaps and develop a skilled and competitive workforce.

By replacing AEB, the Adult Skills Fund has simplified the funding process and made it more efficient, making it easier for individuals and businesses to access the support they need.

If you’re an individual looking to improve your skills and qualifications, or a business looking to develop your workforce, the Adult Skills Fund is a valuable resource that can help you achieve your goals.

LMP Education is an award-winning training provider delivering a range of short courses for adults. All LMP short courses are free (fully-funded by the UK government) to people age 19+ who live within the Greater London Area and in Non-Devolved areas of England. You must also meet the eligibility criteria. Find out more here https://lmp-group.co.uk/adult-education-courses/