Want to learn?
Written by Alice Davis
From taking up bookkeeping to learning how to use a chainsaw, the past year has left many people thinking about extending their skills or retraining completely. With redundancies taking hold and education at schools and universities disrupted, the pandemic has highlighted the importance of access to continuous learning. But lockdown has also shone a spotlight on the many inequalities in access to education, training and employment advice. The good news is that help is available, and in this blog post we explore some of the support that is out there for people in Devon who want to learn.
If you have already identified a course you would like to do, you may be able to apply for an educational grant. The Devon Agricutural and Rural Training Trust (DARTT) supports groups and individuals in rural communities to develop skills and access training. Funding is available for people of all ages who live or work in Devon. The application must be for a rural training course or benefit someone working or hoping to work on a rural enterprise. This can range from agricultural skills such as crop spraying to life skills such as sign language. The trust usually gives grants for one-off costs, covering up to 30 per cent of the training fee. “We don’t provide training but we can steer people towards the right course,” says trustee Claire Purser, who adds that anyone thinking of applying is welcome to email her to discuss how DARTT can help (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Vivian Moon Foundation offers grants to people in North Devon and Torridge who would like to further their education. Grants are usually up to £500 per person and the range of training and learning that the foundation supports is wide. Chairman Ross Moon says he has noticed a particular increase in grant applications from people wishing to pursue medical training over the past year, as well as those wanting to get into teaching.
Other local sources of support include the Devon Educational Trust which awards grants to children and young people under the age of 25, and to groups and charities that work in this area. The Gibbons Family Trust also offers grants to people under the age of 25 for a variety of reasons, including advancing education or training. Priority is given to applications from East Devon.
Another option could be to look at free or funded courses. On Course South West is currently offering free online qualifications to adult learners who live in Plymouth, alongside free family learning activities such as crafting, Maths, English and first aid. Learn Devon provides adult and community learning courses on behalf of Devon County Council. Concessions are available for some subjects while others are free if you meet certain criteria. For example, you can take the GCSE Maths and English courses for free if you have not previously gained a GCSE in the subject at the equivalent of grade 4 or above. If you are claiming concessions you may also be eligible for further support such as childcare costs or course equipment.
WEA is an adult education charity with branches in Devon and Plymouth. It has a huge range of open access courses which were traditionally delivered face to face but have moved online for now in response to Covid. It is funded through the ESFA (Education and Skills Funding Agency) which means people receiving means-tested benefits can attend free of charge.
There may also be community groups or grant funders in your local area that can offer financial assistance, opportunities or other support. DCF’s Community Insight Team is constantly keeping tabs on what’s available in communities across Devon so if you need some advice we would be happy to help – email@example.com.
Feeling inspired? Here are a few more grants and schemes that can help with training and employability skills:
- The Positive People Programme supports adults in Devon who are currently out of work. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for further information or contact the Community Insight Team on email@example.com.
- Lifetime Skills Guarantee, a government scheme for adults without a full qualification at Level 3 (A-level equivalent), launching in April 2021.
- The Thomas Wall Trust offers people grants towards education and training.
- The City & Guilds Foundation offers bursaries for City & Guilds and ILM (leadership and management) qualifications.