Free and low-cost ways to boost your skills.
The summer is a great time to brush up your skills – if you’re a student you’ve the luxury of the long summer break. If you’re already in a job, you can take advantage of any downtime in the workplace. Either way, the longer days can make it feel like you’ve got more time, and it’s amazing what you can achieve in just a few focused hours.
Developing new skills can shape your career ideas and direction, boost your confidence and help you discover new talents. And with changes in employment and advances in technology, keeping your skills up-to-date is more important than ever. So why not get ahead?
If you want to learn a new skill the good news is there are loads of learning options at your fingertips and lots of them are free or offer a free trial. A quick online search is a good place to start, but here’s a few ideas to get you going:
- Not just the home of cute cats, YouTube is actually packed with useful stuff too. Check out free how-to films and tutorials on subjects ranging from Photoshop to pattern cutting
- Do you struggle with figures? If you didn’t like maths at school, it can annoying to discover it does have its uses. Strength in Numbers helps you learn the maths needed for everyday life – from checking you’ve been paid to estimating time. Take the challenge check-up to identify the skills you need to work on, then follow the learning guide and reach your target
- Want to boost your digital skills? Treehouse offers online courses in web-design, coding and business and has a free 7-day trial
- Lynda.com is part of the online networking platform LinkedIN. It offers courses in business, technology and creative skills and offers a free 10-day trial
- Skillshare is a similar deal and offers bite-size online learning classes in subjects including design, cookery, technology and craft. With a free 30-day trial there’s plenty of time to check things out
Free online courses from top universities
Ready to get your teeth into something a little more weighty? Try a Massive Open Online Course – better known as a MOOC. These free online courses from top universities give you the chance to try a subject and learn wherever and whenever suits you. Courses are short – two to three hours a week over three to six weeks is fairly typical – and are suitable for beginners. There’s no shortage of subjects – options include robotics, fairy tales and Dutch, as well as practical options such as writing job applications. Find out more at Future Learn or The Open University’s OpenLearn.
Always fancied carpentry? Want to work in marketing? A short practical course can be a great low-risk way to try something out or to boost your existing skills.
Colleges and community centres usually run a variety of short courses. Your local library should have information about what’s on in your area or see Hotcourses to find local evening and part-time courses in anything from DIY to programming. You may have to pay for courses, but sometimes help with fees is available. Speak to the course provider to find out more.
Local networks or festivals, such as Brighton’s Digital Festival, often run free talks and workshops. Keep an eye out in local newspapers, free magazines or websites for details of what’s on near you.
Look out for local interest groups – meetings of people with a shared interest in your area. Meetup is a good place to start.
And don’t forget volunteering is a great way to try something out, learn something new and do something worthwhile – all at the same time.
Ask a friend, relative or colleague
Learning is not just about training courses and study, sometimes you learn the most from those around you. In fact, you’re probably surrounded by people only too willing to share their know-how.
Start off by tapping into your network – perhaps your next-door-neighbour is a whiz on Excel or your friend’s mum would be more than happy to give you a crash course in budgeting. Think about who you know who could help, and ask nicely!
If you’re already in work, ask your manager or a colleague to explain something to you, take you to a meeting or show you what they’re working on. You’ll be surprised what you can pick up and where it can lead…
Find out more
Find out more about OpenLearn with our short Q&A.