Upskilling is defined as the process of learning new skills, and is a phenomenon familiar to all service women and men. We all experience training throughout our service career although it tends to be front loaded towards the initial and early stages of service life when one is learning a trade or enhancing basic skills in preparation for further promotion and greater responsibility. However when ever it is undertaken, it is arranged, chosen and approved by your employer who is looking to enhance your role within the organisation. However you don’t have to be tied to the Service’s agenda, investing in yourself by undertaking further training in support of wider personal agendas or ambitions is an option, and, I would argue, an incredibly worth while expense. Whether it be to broaden your skills set, achieve a personal ambition or target, or prepare for a second career you will find no better return on investment than upskilling yourself. But you don’t have to fund it all yourself. The MOD's Enhanced Learning Credits Scheme (ELC) promotes lifelong learning amongst members of the Armed Forces and can be used to support a variety, but not unlimited, number of personal training courses.
The scheme provides financial support in the form of a single up-front payment in each of a maximum of three separate financial years but you must be aiming to undertake training or education defined as being at the higher level of learning i.e. for courses that result in a nationally recognised qualification at Level three or above on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) (England, Northern Ireland and Wales), a Level six or above on the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). What does this really mean?
• As was said above the ELC scheme provides a single payment in three separate financial years towards the cost of a nationally recognised qualification at Level 3 (A level), or its equivalent, or above.
• The awards are made at three ‘tiers
• The Lower Tier award is £1,000 per year – to qualify for this you must have 6 years service before making initial claim.
• Aggregated Lower Tier provides a single award of up to £3,000. This is for those individuals who serve between 6 and 8 years – you are allowed to aggregate your awards into one payment.
• Upper Tier provides a maximum of three awards of up to £2000 per year – you must have served a minimum of 8 years to be eligible for this higher payment.
• You must be a member of the ELC scheme to make a claim - you must have elected to join the scheme, or elect to opt out of the scheme, in the first 12 months after enlisting. Your eligible service will be counted from the date of enlisting.
• If you opt out of the scheme you may (but not necessarily) be given another opportunity to join the scheme between 8 and 8.5 years after enlisting. If you opt to join the scheme at this point your eligible service will be counted from the 8 year point.
• If you are still serving when you make your claim, you must be able to argue that the proposed activity is of direct benefit to the Service and have substantial development value in keeping with your personal development goals and be within your ability to achieve!
• Service leavers undergoing resettlement may use their Individual Resettlement Training Cost grant with ELC for an eligible higher level qualification course.
• Only one ELC claim can be made in a particular financial year (1 April – 31 March).
• Perhaps most importantly REMEMBER you are expected to pay for a minimum of 20% of the course cost. This cost includes VAT but excludes food, accommodation, travel, subsistence and course books or other materials, which may be you own responsibility (some costs may be covered if this is part of your GRT entitlement).
• ALSO ELC is not a refund scheme. There are no circumstances where the MOD will refund you if you pay for your learning in advance and then apply for ELC support.
• Finally you can continue to claim ELC up to 5 years after leaving the Armed Forces – for those who left between 2011 and 2016 there is a proportionate reducing scale of eligibility from 10 to 5 years..
You can find full details of how to make a claim on the ELCAS website http://www.enhancedlearningcredits.com/ and the November 2017 edition of Quest has a comprehensive set of articles that explain both the process to claim and the opportunities it provides.