Can Adults Learn New Skills? Yes, And Here's Why You Should

Issue 98

As we start to break some of our New Year's resolutions, it can be tempting to fall back into old habits. We sat down with Andy Barton, Product Manager at the awarding organisation NCFE, to discover why we don't need to wait another 12 months to embark on a new learning journey.

Can adults learn new skills?

Absolutely – you’re never too old (or young!) to learn a new skill. As recently outlined by The Education Hub, continued learning can help improve how the brain processes information and 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.

It’s not just about our own personal wellbeing though, it also has some great benefits when it comes to professional development. The Education Hub 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.

What new skills can I learn?

The world’s your oyster! There are so many skills you can learn this year. For those looking to learn vital, relevant and transferable skills for both work and life, essential digital skills could be a fantastic option – especially with recent research revealing that 92% of businesses consider basic levels of digital skills as important for employees.

Beyond this, there are so many other options depending on your interests, strengths, and career plans. If you’re thinking more longterm and are looking to retrain and move into a completely new sector, perhaps explore the qualifications available in growing sector areas such as health and social care, health and beauty, business admin, engineering, or early years and childcare. There’s a range of qualifications at different levels in each of these areas which can help you to gain the skills you need.

If you’re not looking to completely retrain but are considering how to upskill and boost your confidence to make yourself more employable, you may wish to enhance your ‘essential skills’. These are the skills that help us to navigate and progress through our personal and professional lives – such as resilience, communication, speaking, listening, presenting, and understanding.

Where and how can I learn new skills?

The good news is that there’s never been more control, choice or flexibility when it comes to the ‘when’, ‘where’, and the ‘what’ of your study.

For some courses, you may have to wait until the start of the new academic year, but others will allow you to begin your study much 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 short courses and bitesize learning or looking to develop more depth of knowledge and skills through a longer programme of study.

Further to this, whilst some may prefer to learn in person, entire qualifications with accompanying resources 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 online 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 traveling to a traditional place of study such as a college. For many qualifications, you can even now sit your assessments in the comfort of your own home!

Is there help available for upskilling?

There is a lot of support available to help you invest in your learning this year, including hundreds of funded adult education qualifications and standalone units.

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 for 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.

If you’re thinking of investing in yourself and your knowledge by learning a new skill, find out how you can take the first step by visiting

Sign-up to our newsletter

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.