How to find your dream career

IT IS never too late to learn – and many free courses are available to help you gain key skills.

“I’ve got socks older than you,” Kerry Mullins laughs, teasing her fellow childcare students at Leicester College.

In her early 40s, mum-of-three Kerry is the oldest in the class but she’s revelling in her studies.

“After 20 years I’m finally working towards a career I love,” she says.

Kerry’s course is funded by the government’s Free Courses for Jobs programme – one of several skills and training opportunities helping adults across England gain skills for life. Free Courses for Jobs are open to people aged 19 and over who don’t have a Level 3 qualification – equivalent to an A level.

From April, unemployed adults or those earning below the annual National Living Wage of £18,525, even with a Level 3 qualification or higher, will be eligible. For students struggling financially, Learner Support grants may be available to help with travel to college, childcare, course materials and equipment.

“I wasn’t very academic at school,” Kerry says. “Afterwards, I worked in coffee shops and in admin. It was only after my eldest, Edward, was born 11 years ago that I thought about childcare. When his friends came round, their parents would say that their child had had a great time – and they’d suggest I do this for a living.”

After studying for Level 2 in Childcare at Leicester College and taking a break to have her daughter Eleanor in 2019, Kerry is now working towards a free Early Years Educator Level 3 diploma, combining her studies with on-the-job training at a nursery.

“I love working with little ones. And I enjoy my college days – being ‘Kerry’ instead of ‘Mum’.”

Like Kerry, Dolly Paul, 38, from East London was thrilled to discover she was eligible for free courses. Four days a week, Dolly studies Level 2 Functional Skills Maths and GCSE English Language at Morley College in South East London. These qualifications are open to people aged 19 and over without GCSEs. Free courses are also available in essential digital skills.

“I used to speak quietly because I was worried I had my words wrong. Now I know that even if I’m wrong, I’m nearly right and people understand me,” Dolly, a mother-of-three who moved to the UK from Nigeria a decade ago, says. “Career-wise, I’m on a positive journey. Short term, I’m looking to become a teaching assistant and, long term, study business management.”

To ensure even more adults can gain skills for life, the Government is investing £1.6billion through the National Skills Fund in the next three years.

And later this year, Multiply, a £559million scheme, will launch across the UK, offering free and flexible numeracy provision for adults. This will include an online platform and shorter accessible courses. This is on top of the existing adult legal entitlement to take a free maths qualification up to Level 2 if you don’t already have GCSE grade C, 4 or higher.

Whatever your age and previous experience, this could be the time to learn skills for a new job. Anyone in England can also contact the National Careers Service for free advice and information on training opportunities in their area.

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