Can adults learn new skills? Yes, and here's why you should... | NCFE

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Can adults learn new skills? Yes, and here's why you should...

Andrew Barton Andrew Barton Product Manager – Learning for Work, NCFE

As we welcome 2024 and the excitement and opportunity that a new year can bring, it feels like the perfect time to embark on a new learning journey. But before doing so, we may hesitate and ask ourselves questions such as, “What new skills should I learn in 2024?”, “Is learning new skills actually important?”, and the age-old, “Am I too old to learn a new skill?” 

We’re here to let you know the answers to these questions, encourage you to think about how new skills could boost your existing strengths, career prospects and your wellbeing, and help you along your lifelong learning journey. 

Can adults learn new skills? 

Absolutely – you're never too old (or young!) to learn a new skill. As outlined by The Education Hub, continued learning can help to improve how the brain processes information, as well as our memory. It can also bring increased satisfaction and purpose to our lives, giving us a stronger sense of self and what we stand for.  

That’s some of the personal benefits for our own wellbeing – but what about professionally speaking? The Education Hub also outlines how learning leads to increased resilience in the world of work, giving us more choices about the jobs open to us and increasing our employability significantly.  

So, there are many benefits to continued learning – especially for adults! 

What new skills can I learn? 

The world’s your oyster! There are so many skills you can learn in 2024. Perhaps you’d like to improve your digital skills – especially with recent research revealing how 92% of businesses think that having a basic level of digital skills is important for employees. Honing your essential digital skills would be a great place to start for those looking to bridge digital knowledge gaps and learn vital skills for life. 

Beyond this, there are so many other options depending on your interests and career plans. If you’re thinking more long-term and are looking to retrain and move into a completely new sector, perhaps skills for roles within areas such as health and social care, health and beauty, business admin, engineering or early years and childcare may be of interest to you. 

Not looking to retrain, but thinking of upskilling in areas that could make you more employable? You may wish to enhance your essential skills – those that help us to navigate and progress through our personal and professional lives – such as resilience, communication, speaking, listening, presenting and understanding.  

Research has revealed that being equipped with these essential skills means that you’re 52% less likely to be out of work or education – something that is definitely worth exploring. 

Where and how can I learn new skills? 

There’s never been more control, choice or flexibility when it comes to the ‘when’, ‘where’, and the 'what' of your study. 

Whilst you may have to wait until the start of the new academic year, some courses will allow you to begin your study sooner than this. The overall length of your learning can also vary, depending on whether you’re looking to pick up a single skill via a short course or are looking to develop your knowledge more thoroughly through gaining a qualification on a longer programme.  

There are also several options when it comes to level of study, from entry-level right through to Level 5. Further to this, whilst some may prefer to learn in person, entire qualifications can also be accessed completely online – which, for many individuals, may suit your circumstances better.  

Plus, as the cost of living crisis continues, the flexibility that digital learning offers may also allow you to fit your studies around part-time work and other responsibilities, as well as avoiding the additional cost of travelling to a traditional place of study such as a college – points which were recently outlined in a blog by our Head of Policy, Michael Lemin. 

Is there help available for upskilling? 

Continuing with the topic of the cost of living and studying, did you know that hundreds of funded adult education qualifications and standalone units are available to access?  

For example, the Adult Education Budget (AEB) funds the delivery of education and training for learners aged 19+, providing opportunities across regions and communities and helping adult learners to progress into work or sign up to an apprenticeship.  

Sector-based work academy programmes (SWAPs) provide another opportunity to help jobseekers to learn new skills whilst gaining experience working in a particular industry – for example in care, construction or warehouse work. 

Finally, Advanced Learner Loans can be applied for to help with the costs of a course delivered at a college or independent training provider in England for individuals aged 19 and over. There really is a range of funding out there to support you with learning in 2024! 

Thinking of investing in yourself and your knowledge by learning a new skill in 2024? Find out how you could make the first step on your new learning journey over on our Learning for Work page. 

[Learning] can improve our memory and how our brain processes information. People used to think that our brains were fixed, but now we know that isn’t true. They can keep changing in a positive way and it’s the effort we put into learning that makes it happen!

The Education Hub, 2021
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