Adult funding and loans | NCFE

What can we help you find?

We’re the UK’s leading awarding organisation for funded adult training.

Adult funding and loans

1200 X 628 Learning For Work 4

NCFE is the sector-leading provider of qualifications designed to support adults to enter and progress within the labour market, with more individuals enrolled on our funded adult education qualifications than any other awarding organisation. 

We offer hundreds of funded qualifications to help make education accessible for all and remove barriers for adults looking to progress in education, employment, and life. 

Our diverse portfolio of qualifications and standalone units is fully aligned with skills-led recovery and multiple government-backed programmes, including both national skills agendas and regional skills priorities. 

Adult funding options

National Adult Education Budget (AEB) funds the delivery of education and training for learners aged 19+ (in non-devolved regions). The funding can be accessed through local training providers or colleges that have won an AEB contract. 

The national AEB funds the training of adults with employability skills. Colleges, independent training providers and local authorities can deliver these funded qualifications, providing learning opportunities across regions and communities. After completing AEB funded qualifications, adult learners should be able to progress into work or sign up to an apprenticeship. 

You can check our funding spreadsheet to find out about our fundable qualifications – however, the most up to date information on those eligible qualifications can be found on the ESFA website.

Learn more

On 1 August 2019, the adult education budget (AEB) was apportioned between the ESFA and initially six mayoral combined authorities (MCAs) and the Greater London Authority (GLA). Since then, another four MCAs have been added. 

The 10 devolved Mayoral Combined Authorities manage their own AEB budget, so that they can prioritise their local skills needs: 

Providers who wish to deliver to learners residing in areas where the AEB funding support is devolved will need to discuss funding arrangements directly with the relevant authority. 

Individuals can apply for an Advanced Learner Loan to help with the costs of a course delivered at a college or independent training provider in England. 

Loan eligibility does not depend on income and there are no credit checks. 

Whether individuals qualify for an Advanced Learner Loan depends on their: 

  • Age, course, college or training provider, nationality or residency status. 

Individuals must be 19 or older on the first day of course. 

Eligible courses must be: 

  •  Either a Level 3, 4, 5, or 6 qualification 
  •  Offered at an approved college or training provider in England. 

Note: Individuals studying a Level 3 qualification may be eligible for an ‘Adult Education Budget’ grant instead of an Advanced Learner Loan. If they get a grant, they do not need to repay it. They will need to ask their college or training provider about grants before they apply for a loan. 

The National Skills Fund is a governmental initiative which helps adults to train and gain the valuable skills they need to improve their job prospects. 

On top of the £375 million investment in the financial year 2021/2022, the government is investing £1.6 billion through the National Skills Fund in the next three years 

The National Skills Fund includes: 
Free Level 3 Qualifications for Adults
  • Any adult aged 19 and over, who does not already have a Level 3 qualification (equivalent to an advanced technical certificate or diploma, or A levels) or higher, can access hundreds of fully funded Level 3 courses 
  • A long-term commitment to remove the age constraints and financial barriers for adults looking for their first Level 3 qualification, so that they can access training to enable them to progress. 
  • 400+ qualifications have been identified to help adults improve their job prospects and address skills needs in the economy, delivering a wide range of skills in many jobs and sectors 
  • NCFE has 36 listed qualifications on the Lifetime Skills Guarantee (LSG) across the following sector areas: 
  • Business management
  • Childcare and early years
  • Digital 
  • Health and social care
  • Mathematics and statistics – Link to eligible qualifications 
  • Medicine and dentistry
  • Public services
  • From 1 April 2022, eligibility for the National Skills Fund Level 3 adult offer was expanded to those who meet the definition of low-wage or unemployed 
  • The National Skills Fund Level 3 adult offer can be delivered in the workplace. 

You can find more information on the government website.  

Skills Bootcamps

Skills Bootcamps give people the opportunity to build up sector-specific skills and fast-track to an interview with a local employer. 

They offer free, flexible courses of up to 16 weeks for adults aged 19 or over and who are either in work or recently unemployed (some Skills Bootcamps have additional eligibility criteria). 

They are available in Construction, Digital, Engineering & Manufacturing, Green Skills and Rail. 

They are developed in partnership with employers, colleges, training providers and local authorities to help people develop the skills that are in demand in their local area and get a better job. 

A list of Skills Bootcamps (add link to skills bootcamps) is available. This list will continue to grow as more Skills Bootcamps become available. 

The UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) is the Government’s domestic replacement for the European Structural and Investment Programme (ESIF), which expires in the UK in March 2023.

In England, the fund will primarily operate over the strategic geographies of the Mayoral Combined Authorities and the Greater London Authority, and lower tier or unitary authorities elsewhere. - Delivery geographies - GOV.UK (

The Fund is a central pillar of the UK Government’s ambitious levelling up agenda and a significant component of its support for places across the UK.

It provides £2.6 billion of new funding for local investment by March 2025, with all areas of the UK receiving an allocation from the Fund via a funding formula rather than a competition.

The UKSPF will support the UK government’s wider commitment to level up all parts of the UK by delivering on each of the levelling up objectives:

  • Boost core skills and support adults to progress in work, by targeting adults with no or low level qualifications and skills in maths, and upskill the working population, yielding personal and societal economic impact, and by encouraging innovative approaches to reducing adult learning barriers.
  • Support disadvantaged people to access the skills they need to progress in life and into work, for example the long-term unemployed and those with protected characteristics through funding life, and basic skills where this is not delivered through national or local employment and skills provision.
  • Support local areas to fund local skills needs and supplement local adult skills provision e.g. by providing additional volumes; delivering provision through wider range of routes or enabling more intensive/innovative provision, both qualification based and non-qualification based.
  • Reduce levels of economic inactivity and move those furthest from the labour market closer to employment, through investment in bespoke employment support tailored to local need. Investment should facilitate the join-up of mainstream provision and local services within an area for participants, through the use of one-to-one keyworker support, improving employment outcomes for specific cohorts who face labour market barriers.

Following the UK’s exit from the European Union, the fund invests in domestic priorities and targeting funding where it is needed most: Building pride in place, supporting high quality skills training and supporting pay, employment and productivity growth.

It will dramatically reduce the levels of bureaucracy associated with EU funds, enable truly local decision making and better target the priorities of places within the UK.

All places across the UK will receive a conditional allocation from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

This flexible approach represents a key shift from the previous EU system. Places will be able to choose from investment in three investment priorities of communities and place, local business and people and skills.

The initial focus of the UKSPF programme in 2022-23 and 2023-24 will be on communities and place and local business interventions, alongside support for people through the Multiply adult numeracy programme.

This is designed to complement residual employment and skills funding from the European Social Fund.

UKSPF investment to support people and skills will follow from 2024-25, when the funding pot reaches its full extent.

Lead local authorities have the flexibility to fund targeted people and skills provision in 2022-23 and 2023-24 where this is a continuing priority for 2024-25 and may be at significant risk of ending due to the tail off of EU funds. However, this flexibility may only be used where provision is currently delivered by voluntary and community organisations, having regard for the focus of the Fund and available funding

The ESF is part of the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) Growth Programme for England. 

The Operational End Date for ESF contracts will be March 2023. 

From April 2023, ESF funding will be replaced by the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF). More information on the UKSPF can be found on the dedicated USPS area.

Sector-based work academy programmes (SWAPs)  offer an opportunity to learn new skills and get experience of working in a particular industry – for example care, construction, or warehouse work. 

The programme is designed to help jobseekers who are claiming either Universal Credit, Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), to build confidence, improve job prospects and enhance CVs. 

SWAPs last up to six weeks, and consist of three parts: 

  • Pre-employment training – a short module of vocational training run by a local college or training provider 
  • Work experience with an employer in the industry, where you can learn new skills on the job 
  • At the end of the programme, either a job interview with an employer in the sector or if an interview cannot be offered, help with the application process. 
NCFE supporting products

F/503/1560/UNIT Promoting Yourself and Preparing for a job interview

GLH : 20

601/4680/1 NCFE Level 1 Award in Employability Skills

GLH: 36


601/1087/9 NCFE Level 1 Award in Occupational Studies for the Workplace (Moving or handling goods manually in logistics facilities, Problem solving at work, Working in a team)

GLH: 35

601/1088/0 NCFE Level 1 Certificate in Occupational Studies for the Workplace

GLH: 88

603/0634/8 NCFE Level 2 Certificate in the Principles of Warehousing and Sotrage

GLH: 101

Health and Social Care

NCFE Level 1 Award in Occupational Studies for the Workplace (Introduction to health and social care, Problem solving at work, Working in a team)

GLH: 35

601/1088/0 NCFE Level 1 Certificate in Occupational Studies for the Workplace


600/1213/4 NCFE CACHE Level 1 Award in Preparing to Work in Adult Social Care

GLH: 53

Business Services

601/1087/9 NCFE Level 1 Award in Occupational Studies for the Workplace (Careers in business and administration, Understanding business communication)

GLH: 35

601/1088/0 NCFE Level 1 Certificate in Occupational Studies for the Workplace

GLH: 88

601/7071/2 NCFE Level 2 Certificate in Principles of Business Administration (VRQ)

GLH: 155

Local flexibility is a tailored provision for adults. It includes regulated qualifications and their components (units), and/or non-regulated learning, from Entry Level to Level 2. 

Local flexibility is about making a broad offer available to respond to local skills and community needs. It supports colleges and training organisations working with adults at lower levels, who want to re-engage with learning and/or their local labour market. 

Within local flexibility, there is also the facility for colleges and training organisations to select to deliver non-regulated learning. 

Traineeships are an education and training programme with work experience for young people whose preference is to find an apprenticeship or job, but who lack the skills, experience and behaviours sought by employers.  

Unlike an apprenticeship, a traineeship is a programme of learning and skills development. It is not a job. 

Traineeships are a focused, flexible offer with a direct line of sight to employment. 

The aim of a traineeship is to secure young people’s progression to a positive outcome as quickly as possible where they are not ready to take this step without the preparation that the traineeship provides. 

Work Preparation Training

A focused period of work preparation training with a training provider, covering areas like CV writing, interview preparation, job search and inter-personal skills.

Work Experience Placement

A high-quality work experience placement with an employer to give the young person meaningful work experience and an opportunity to develop workplace skills.

Min 70 hrs

Maths, English and Digital Development

A basic skills element with English, maths and digital where needed.

4/C grade Maths & English

Level 1 Digital

Vocational Training and Qualifications

Focused on preparing the trainee for occupational standards within apprenticeships or occupation specific employment, depending on the needs of the young person and linked to the local labour market.

Learning for work


We design many of our employability qualifications to align with government initiatives so that individuals get the best outcomes from their time on programme.

Discover the various funding streams our portfolio falls under in our supporting funding document.

Download now