Learn new skills for free

If you thought learning a new skill had to cost money, think again. Find out how you can brush up your computer skills, learn a language or even do a degree level course for free.

Companies seem to be announcing redundancies on a daily basis. Indeed, figures are rising fast and, according to the Office of National Statistics, the number of unemployed people in the UK increased by 232,000 over the first quarter (to April 2009).  

And this of course isn't confined to Britain - unemployment levels are rising all over the world.

Alternative career?

But some people plan to do something about it.

According to an article I recently read on the BBC's website, a number of Americans have decided to take matters into their own hands and are devising Plan B careers.

Fearing that they might be made redundant, they're taking night classes, signing up for online courses and re-training (while sticking at the day job) in preparation for an alternative career.

This may sound a bit extreme. But new skills never hurt anyone and if you've got the tenacity to learn something new, it can't be a bad thing.

But of course, it all costs money. And if you have been one of the unlucky ones who have lost their job or if money's a bit tight, spending more of it won't be easy (if indeed possible).

Free courses

But there are free courses out there. And while those planning to re-train in something technically difficult (such as plumbing) will undoubtedly have to pay, if your skills are lacking in a more computer based area, or you wish to learn a language, for example, there may just something free to suit.

No computer skills?

Computers are amazing tools and the internet has really opened up the world for us. But what if you've never used one and the very idea terrifies you?

Then, head to your local library. Most of us haven't stepped into one for years, but you're really missing out - they're veritable minefields of information.

But the best bit is most libraries run a regular "Computer Tutor" type class that will teach you all the basic skills you need to be able to use a PC.

What's more, many run internet courses too, which will teach you how to search for websites, find information and use email. Alternatively, you could check out the BBC's Webwise site which also has courses to help.

And of course, once you know what you're doing, libraries provide loads of computers that you can use to access the internet for free, at any time.

Careers Advice Service

If you do fancy a career change, or wish to learn a new skill but are not sure what, you may not know where to start. This is where Careers Advice can help.

This brilliant service can help you work out what you want to do, and make you aware of the skills you already have.

And with a database containing over 1 million courses, you'll be able to find out which local colleges or universities offer the courses you're interested in. However, as any government funding goes directly to the institutions themselves, you'll need to contact the colleges directly to find out if there is any help available, or indeed if the course you're interested in is free.

Free Language Courses

Knowledge of another language can be incredibly useful in the workplace but courses and tutors can be expensive.

Instead, check out the BBC's language resource - this brilliant site offers courses in French, Spanish, German, Italian, Greek, Portuguese, Chinese and many more languages besides.

If you want to f up on your existing skills you can take the relevant test and find out how much you know - you'll then be recommended a course at the right level.

And if you wish to learn a brand new language? Take the relevant 12-week beginner's course; you'll get sent weekly emails offering tips and encouragement and an end of course assessment at the end, which could result in a BBC certificate. And it's all free!

MIT OpenCourseWare

And finally, this is one of my favourite resources on the web.

Prestigious US university Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), believe it or not, has made pretty much all of its course materials (undergraduate and graduate courses) available to the public via MIT Open Courseware.

And it's all absolutely free to use. So you could choose to learn about mechanical engineering, accounting, or economics, and all at no cost.

All course materials are all available (including video lectures), assignments and solutions are given and even the exams are there. And while you can't get a qualification from OpenCourseWare, the materials are first rate and all you need is a computer to use them.f

Most visited courses of the moment include "Physics: Classical mechanics", "An Introduction to Computer Science", and "An Introduction to Psychology".

So if you ever regretted not going to university, or wished you'd taken a different course, here's your chance to learn without paying a penny.

So there you have it, a number of ways you can educated for free.

Happy studying!

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