Up to £10 million is now available to help providers develop new ways of supporting adults to progress or retrain, the Department for Education has announced.
The flexible learning fund, launched today, is part of a £40 million package piloting new approaches to lifelong learning that were announced in this year’s spring budget.
The pilot fund has been “established in the context of the Conservative manifesto commitment to produce ‘the best programme of learning and training for those in work and returning to work in the developed world’.”
It will provide grants of up £1 million to projects that “design, or enhance a method of delivering learning that is not currently widely available, and that is accessible to in-work adults or labour-market returners, catering to their specific needs in a way that breaks down barriers to learning faced by these groups”.
To be considered for funding, projects must “centre on the delivery of basic skills, or on intermediate or higher level technical learning”.
Proposals are expected to fit within at least one of four “categories of interest”.
These include delivery of a “flexible or convenient timetable”, such as outside normal working hours, or “outside the classroom”.
The remaining two categories cover “making online and blended learning work for adults”, and “delivery methods that allow for caring responsibilities and returning to the labour market”.
Bids, which are welcomed from single organisations or partnerships, are expected to “show the support of relevant employers or employer bodies”.
Up to £1 million is available per project, although projects that “present exceptionally good value for money” or which would lend themselves to “more valuable and robust evaluation” may be able to bid for more.
The cash can be used towards the “design and development” of the project, although funding may also be awarded towards the “additional costs that non-standard forms of delivery accrue”.
The deadline for applications to the fund is January 31 2018, and grant support is available until March 2019.
The government’s industrial strategy green paper, published in January, acknowledged a “growing challenge” with lifelong learning.
“People are living and working longer, but training across working life is going down,” it stated.
It committed to exploring “ambitious new approaches to encouraging lifelong learning, which could include assessing changes to the costs people face to make them less daunting, improving outreach to people where industries are changing, and providing better information”.