5 Tips for Adult Learners Returning to Education to Boost their Careers

In the wake of November’s spending review, the adult education sector breathed a sigh of relief as George Osborne announced core funding would be protected. The government had been expected to cut funding to the already fragile sector which has endured years of setbacks and is undergoing an area review.

Businessman learning in a further education course

While some return to education in later life to nurture a skill or hobby, gaining extra qualifications can increase financial worth and improve chances of promotion. The news of funding protection was, therefore, a boost for those adults who are seeking further education (FE) as an opportunity to enhance their careers.

Reengaging with the education system as an adult, even after a small amount of time away, can be difficult. These five tips for adult learners entering FE will help ease the transition and make the process seem more accessible to those who want to learn while working.

Get financial help and student support

Finding the funds to finance a return to education can be one of the biggest difficulties facing adult learners. Funding and scholarships are available to all students so ask the institute you attend what financial support they offer.

Adult learners can usually apply for grants or bursaries to help pay for courses and are usually not required to pay any money back. Grants are generally course specific, for instance City & Guilds offer vocational courses in a range of business skills and those who enroll may be entitled to a City & Guilds bursary. If you’re a parent you might also be able to get help with childcare costs while you study.

Research resources for adult students

The first decision you’ll have to make is where to enroll on your chosen course. If there are community, private, or public colleges close enough for you to enroll, research what resources they offer to help adult learners.

Many institutes understand they need to provide a flexible approach to learning so that adult learners can thrive without disrupting their job and family commitments. Part-time curriculums, night classes and online coursework are just some of the ways a university or college might encourage flexible learning.

Refresh your skills

FE jobs experts have discussed how returning to education is a great way of adults developing new skills or acquiring new ones. It also gives adults a chance to retrain, which in the current economic climate is important to people who will need to work past pension age.

There is a lot of writing involved in further education studies and you may need to refresh your memory on how to write and format college-level assignments. Many universities offer free online college-writing courses that can help get you started.

It’s also worth considering your learning style. Educators have pinpointed three main learning styles – visual, auditory and kinesthetic. Online quizzes can help to determine what type of learner you are and can advise on studying and revising strategies that suit your learning style.

Test drive some online classes

If attending university or college is impossible to fit in with your current lifestyle there are alternative ways of gaining a qualification. These days it is possible to attend a lesson without leaving your office the comfort of your own home. Higher education offers a variety of online options ranging from six-week courses to academic degrees. This means that no matter what students wish to study, the courses or degree programs needed to succeed can be found online.

Online programs can be a more affordable option. Though online tuition fees may be the same as traditional tuition fees, there are no commuting costs and required course materials such as textbooks are often available for free online.

Online studying isn’t for everyone. Activia Training have noted that traditional classroom learning allows you to learn from colleagues and to ask questions of an experienced tutor. If you don’t feel confident you can study outside of the classroom, try signing up for free online college-level course to test out the format before investing in a full online degree.

Make a plan for your work-life balance

Commitments such as having a full-time job, a relationship or young children often limit how much time adults can spend studying. Having a busy schedule should not prevent you from returning to education.

Use a diary to help plan your week, making time for work and family while assigning yourself some time to focus on your studies. If something comes up during the hours you’ve set aside for studying, politely decline to ensure you keep up to date with your course. Having a weekly plan will make studying on top of an already hectic lifestyle more manageable.

It is important to remember that your family members are around to support you. Discuss what you’re going to need, whether it’s a quiet space to study in or for somebody to take on extra responsibilities for the time being. Having encouragement from your loved ones and getting them invested in your goals will help you to achieve more and will benefit everyone in the long run.


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