Skills Bootcamps – we need to know more!

Blog posts

21 Mar 2024

Joy Williams

Joy Williams, Principal Research Fellow

Skills Bootcamps are a core part of the national government strategy for skills, and form part of the adult education offer for devolved regions. The majority of the 38 local skills improvement plans (LSIPs) contain references to Skills Bootcamps. They are seen as part of the suite of provisions available that can support employers’ and adults’ skills needs. However, many of the LSIPs, written by employer representative bodies, also highlight that they are not yet well known amongst employers, and they want to deliver more of them in their areas in order to drive forward particular skills.

These free and flexible courses are positioned by DfE as a way to help people get into or progress in a job by proving industry recognised training. Providers have been able to develop the curricula based on their assessment of the needs of employers in different industries, this is to ensure that Skills Bootcamp graduates are suitable for jobs that providers secure from employers, in order to offer guaranteed interviews.

We know that the Skills Bootcamps provision has been generally well-received by Local and Combined Authorities and employers, but up until now there has been no assessment of how well these curricula fit with occupational standards and this is what we set out to look at, with funding from the Gatsby Charitable Foundation. We understand that Skills Bootcamps do not aim to align directly to occupational standards due to the flexible nature of their provision. They are designed to be more responsive to change, which will outpace occupational standard development. Furthermore, they can be tailored to specific employers’ needs and roles and therefore will have additions to the curriculum that may not be generalisable to a standard. However, changes are being made to reflect more links to occupational standards for example, DfE is using the terminology of IfATE pathways for local authorities to bid into and DfE ambitions include linking Skills Bootcamps to accelerated apprenticeships.

Our premise for this research was that we would systematically extract information to build a descriptive picture of content and design, so that we could make recommendations about how adult training provision could be further enhanced and build on the Skills Bootcamps. However, much of our work was stymied by partial information available about the Skills Bootcamps. When looking for publicly available information on Skills Bootcamps we found a lack of information – the links available online showed that they were not being run currently, not being run at all, or in some cases we could find no trace of the Skills Bootcamp on the providers’ websites.

None of the Skills Bootcamp providers in the sample referred explicitly to any related occupational standards regarding their Skills Bootcamps, although some suggested job roles or pathways to apprenticeships that matched to IFATE’s occupational maps. For most of these Skills Bootcamps, it was possible to observe some links and work out whether they were a ‘close fit’ or might align to an occupational standard. However, there was not enough information to say whether this was a deliberate link or establish that the curriculum matched to the occupational standard. It is possible that more Skills Bootcamps in the sample are linked to occupational standards, however the published information is too limited to make these assumptions.

Another aspect that we looked for in our desk research was links to accelerated apprenticeships. Providers are required to indicate where Skills Bootcamps can be linked to an accelerated apprenticeship, an approach which is being tested in the year ahead. Just a handful of our sample indicated that the Skills Bootcamp offered this pathway to accelerated apprenticeship. This is another area where more information in the coming wave of Skills Bootcamps will help position them in relation to the rest of the skills system and offer routes through to further training and development.

In our sample of Skills Bootcamps, only one fifth had information about what equivalent learning or qualification level they provided. This suggests that learners may not be able to ascertain the level of learning they will be undertaking before signing up for a Skills Bootcamp.

On publication of our findings so far, this leaves us with several questions:

■     For individuals looking for information about upskilling or reskilling, how can they be guaranteed minimum standards of information?

■     For careers guidance professionals looking to advise clients about potential pathways, how can they be sure that the Skills Bootcamps do offer a suitable route?

■     For employers, how do they know that being involved with Skills Bootcamps will bring in new employees or offer existing employees the skills they need most?

As highlighted in the LSIPs, there is still little awareness from employers about how Skills Bootcamps can be useful in the drive for upskilling and reskilling. With that in mind we want to call out to employers that have used Skills Bootcamps to take part in roundtable discussions with us. We want to understand how you came to be involved in the Skills Bootcamps and whether they help you keep up with the pace of change in the skills required in your workforce.

We will also be carrying out roundtables with participants of Skills Bootcamps, so if you have taken part in a Skills Bootcamp and would like to tell us about your experience and how you came to be aware of Skills Bootcamps as an option for you, please also get in touch.

To opt in or find out more about our next steps in this research and to take part in a roundtable, please contact

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Any views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Institute as a whole.