The Bud view: Do Skills Bootcamps provide a roadmap for future training?


First launched in 2020, Skills Bootcamps offer free, flexible courses for adults aged 19 or over. Bootcamps received plenty of promotion from the government as part of its investment in adult learning, and are already proving popular with training providers.

With so many Bud customers getting involved in Skills Bootcamps, we wanted to share some of the best ways to deliver the programme and where it could go in the future.

We interviewed Matt Wood, Product Owner at Bud, who helped to implement Bud’s Bootcamp functionality. As part of the development process, Matt interviewed dozens of training providers about running Bootcamps.

Diversifying skills across training programmes

Skills Bootcamps give training providers a way to diversify their training skills and tap into existing sector knowledge that they don’t get to use in other programmes. This could support a business growth strategy that involves diversification across funding streams.

As Matt explains, it’s clear from the positive market reaction that Bootcamps are fulfilling a need. Whilst delivering apprenticeship training is a great core business, apprenticeships haven't been without their challenges in recent years. Bootcamps give training providers the opportunity to broaden their offering without requiring an overhaul of internal processes.

“If you’re delivering apprenticeships and you want to broaden your offer, you’ve got things like the Adult Education Budget (AEB), but AEB programmes are traditionally at a lower level. Skills Bootcamps are aimed at levels three to five, so they allow training providers and learners to get involved in something a little bit different.

“Training providers can use their skills from delivering apprenticeships, because there are similarities in the way you will need to collect data and track and monitor learners. That’s why a lot of providers have been able to move onto Bootcamps quickly – because they already have a lot of the necessary systems in place,” Matt said.

If you’re delivering Bootcamps or planning on starting, Matt highlights two critical areas for training providers.

Ensuring effective pre-screening

The ESFA’s evaluation of Skills Bootcamps so far found that some Bootcamp participants (particularly on Digital courses) thought the training content was too complex and required higher levels of pre-knowledge.

With Bootcamps being pitched at medium to high levels, there’s the risk of lower skilled learners struggling to adapt. It’s key to assess learners properly before enrolling them onto the programme.

Bud’s enrolment process is designed to capture data to evidence that pre-screening has taken place. It includes questions that are mandatory from the ESFA’s perspective, but there’s also the option to tailor questions to help you stay one step ahead of potential challenges.

“Training providers have the option to add their own custom questions as well. If, later down the line, they discover there’s been a common problem with evidencing pre-screening for Bootcamps, they can set specific questions in Bud for their own programmes,” Matt said.

Developing better relationships with employers

Another important area is employer coordination, since the funding is closely tied to the outcomes of the training. Providers need to link learners with job interviews in order to claim the second milestone payment, while the third milestone payment is dependent on learners actually getting a job or moving on to an apprenticeship.

“It’s much easier to monitor and engage learners in the classroom or online, but once you put them into job interviews and placements, it’s going to require really good employer coordination as well. Managing both ends of the relationship is the thing that providers are going to have to work really hard on,” Matt explained.

This aligns with the ESFA’s report, which describes high-quality employer-provider relationships as “underpinning the design and delivery of Skills Bootcamps”. It adds the caveat that “many successful relationships predate the Bootcamps, showing that successful employer-provider partnerships take time to develop”.

Are Skills Bootcamps a roadmap for future training?

Skills Bootcamps are relatively progressive in a number of ways, and it’s easy to see the programme as a model for future training.

The early involvement of employers has put a greater focus on filling skills gaps in local areas, particularly in technical and digital sectors where courses have been limited historically. As Matt puts it, “Bootcamps open up an obvious, more modern, pathway for a lot of learners”.

The programme also breaks new ground with its funding methodology. While apprenticeship providers are awarded 80% of funding simply for having learners on programme, the Bootcamps model divides funding into milestones and places more emphasis on completions and outcomes.

“What we’re hearing is that the Bootcamps’ funding methodology, milestones and the focus on outcomes is possibly where the rest of the industry is going to go at some point. This is almost a trial run for that. I think it will be really positive – it’s crazy that you can claim 80% of funding without seeing the learners progress onto real outcomes. Training should always have a clear outcome in mind, such as helping learners to get a new job, and not just embarking on training for the sake of it,” Matt said.

What we’re hearing is that the Bootcamps’ funding methodology, milestones and the focus on outcomes is possibly where the rest of the industry is going to go at some point.

Matt Wood, Product Owner at Bud

Where could Bootcamps go next?

Skills Bootcamps were launched as a five-year programme and are currently funded until 2025. What could future iterations look like and what would be the best outcome?

On an industry-wide scale, Matt hopes to see more training adopting an outcome-based approach to drive learners towards successful results. For the Bootcamps themselves, Matt believes future iterations need to be reactive to the employment needs at the time.

“We have HGV driver shortages at the moment, but in five to 10 years’ time, we might have shortages elsewhere. Bootcamps provide the opportunity to react to that – if we’re going to have shortages in the healthcare sector for example, then make the next five-year plan about filling those gaps,” Matt explained.

“We know the employment market ebbs and flows, and if Bootcamps can stay reactive then they should remain popular. But, if they keep pushing digital skills when there’s no longer a shortage, they’ll die out because learners and employers won’t be interested. If they can constantly evolve with the landscape, that will keep them going.”

How Bud supports delivering Skills Bootcamps

Bud is designed to collect the evidence required to drive compliance and provide all the reports you could ever need at your fingertips. It makes delivering Skills Bootcamps easier because employers have full visibility of learner progress via user-friendly dashboards, meaning they are involved at every step of the way.

Read more about our reporting suite or book a demo to see Bud in action.

Want more industry advice and insights from the Bud team? Follow us on LinkedIn or connect with Matt directly.