Career Retraining On The Cheap

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You want out – or job cutbacks are forcing you out – so you’re thinking about career retraining. The family budget’s tight. Training courses are costly. How do you get the best career retraining “bang for your bucks”?

First, check what training you need to get the job you want. Training course providers have a vested interest in selling their courses – don’t ask them. Instead, start looking at the online job ads for the posts you want; be guided by what they say.

What qualifications, experience and skills do most employers ask for? If there’s a difference between what employers ask for and your “offer”, could you convince enough potential employers this difference is so slight you’re a good candidate for their jobs without any “top up” training?

Let’s assume your online research shows you won’t be a competitive candidate until you’ve upgraded your qualifications by appropriate retraining. Leaving to one side the attractive possibility of persuading your current employer to pay for this career retraining, is there anything you can do to keep the costs down?

You may be able to claim exemptions from part of the standard career retraining programme through accreditation of prior learning (APL) and / or accreditation of prior experiential learning (APEL).

List all the study, qualifications and experience you’ve already completed that’s relevant to the qualification and career you’re now after. Back up this information with documentary proof (eg exam certificates, course timetables etc). Contact the course tutors of all the career retraining programmes you’re considering and ask them what exemptions they’d be prepared to offer you under the APL and APEL schemes. You have to take the initiative here – many course tutors won’t. Be prepared to negotiate hard.

Also, don’t forget NVQ, the work-based training route to qualifications up to the level of a Masters degree. Depending on your employer, it’s often less easy to organise this type of career retraining than a course; however, NVQs are usually employer-funded.

Consider your full range of study options. Classroom-based courses are more expensive than their distance learning based equivalents (even before you factor in extra costs like travel). On the other hand, some people just don’t like studying on their own; attending classroom-based training programmes helps them stay motivated. Ring the national Careers Advice Service (0800 100 900) for information on suitable training courses near you and the distance learning equivalents.

There are government backed Career Development loans to fund career retraining. Taking on extra debt when the jobs market is so shaky doesn’t seem wise to me, though.

Employers look for up-to-date experience as well as up-to-date training and competitive qualifications so – where practical – I’d recommend you opt for part-time career retraining courses rather than full-time ones.

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