What is a vocational training course?
A vocational training course is designed to help you learn practical skills to advance – or change - your career. It provides hands-on learning rather than focusing on academic subjects.
After completing a vocational training course, you should have the tools you need to start a job or study a higher-level course at college, or university.
Some examples of vocational courses include:
- beauty therapy, hairdressing, or salon management
- plumbing, carpentry, or electrical installation
- environmental services or animal management
- business administration
- early years education
- fashion design
- rail services or travel and tourism
Financing a vocational training course
There are several different options that you can investigate to help finance a vocational course if you don’t have the funds upfront. These include:
- Advanced Learner Loan
- grant or bursary
- credit card payment
Advanced Learner Loan
This is a scheme run by the UK government that helps towards the costs of a course studied in England.
To be eligible for this loan you must be:
- 19 years old or over (when you start the course)
- studying at an approved college or training provider in England
- studying a course that is level 3, 4, 5, or 6 qualification
This loan won’t affect your income and you also don’t need a credit check to be able to get it.
The amount you can borrow depends on how much your course costs and if there are any other fees involved. The minimum you can borrow is £300.
Also, you can take out this kind of loan more than once. For example, if you wanted to take an A-level in English and in Maths, you could take a loan out for both subjects separately - up to four loans maximum.
You’ll start repaying this loan in the April after your course finishes and it’ll be based on your income.
If you earn over £26,575 a year, you’ll pay back 9% of what you owe over this amount. It will be automatically deducted from your salary. However, if you don’t earn more than this, but at some point, your salary is more than £511 a week or £2,214 a month, then a deduction will be automatically made. All repayments are deducted from your wages, so you won’t need to manage the repayments yourself.
You’ll also have to pay interest on your loan which is based on RPI (Retail Price Index).
Bursaries and grants
For certain courses, you may be able to get a bursary or grant to help fund it. A bursary of course means that you don’t usually need to pay the money back. They’re often designed to support different groups of people.
There is a wide range of different grants and bursaries available, and the eligibility criteria widely vary. They can be based on things such as your:
- educational background
The website Turn2Us acts as a directory for different grants and bursaries. This website has a ‘grant search’ so you can search here for any that you might be eligible for.
You could pay for your vocational course upfront using a credit card and break your repayments down into manageable amounts each month. To do this, you’d need to make sure you could meet the monthly repayments. You’d need to pay at least the minimum as required by your card issuer. However, it would be better to pay more than this so you could pay it off as soon as possible and keep the interest you’re charged to a minimum.
You could also use a credit card to pay for other expenses attached to the course, such as books and stationery. You should make sure to keep a close eye on your statements so you don’t spend more than you can afford to pay back.
Tip: If you use a credit card to pay for your vocational course, ensure you can make at least the minimum repayment on time each month. If you don’t, you may be met with additional charges and your credit history will be affected.
Can I do a vocational training course for free?
In some cases, an employer will pay for you to take a vocational course, as they recognise the value of the skills it will give in your job role. In these instances, colleges usually require students to bring a letter of authorisation from their employer, so that an invoice can be issued directly.
If you feel that the course would help you perform your current role better, you could ask your manager if your company will fund your studies. Even if they say no, they might be willing to let you have study leave or support you in other ways.
If you’re unsure about what level you’re interested in, you’ll need to head to the website of your local college to find out. You’ll also find details about when the courses are being held and any further requirements there.
Depending on your circumstances and what you’re studying, the UK government offers some benefits and funding to help you if you want to take on further education. This includes:
- if you have childcare costs
- you’re claiming Job Seeker's Allowance
- training as part of your Universal Credit scheme
- you’re a member of an Employment and Support Allowance group
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