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Obtaining essential skills are useful for those returning to work, up-skilling or perhaps even thinking about entering the workplace for the first time. They focus on maths, English and ICT with practical applications in the real world. 

Confusingly, these skills are known by different names in each UK country: in England they are called Functional Skills; in Wales and Northern Ireland they are called Essential Skills and in Scotland they are called Adult Literacies.

Having the ability to use English, Maths and ICT skills in practical contexts to suit different situations means that these essential skills underpin every single aspect of learning, work and life. Furthermore, employers are crying out for workers with sound essential skills, so with these basics you'll have the ability to draw on a bank of transferable skills to help you succeed in all areas of life.

There are no entry requirements for undertaking essential skills - in fact, the requirement is that you have none. These essential skills can be taken at either Levels 1 or 2 - if you are confused about what this means, see our Levels of National Qualifications for more information. 

If you are currently free during the day, for example not looking after young children or not in work, you can attend your local further education college. However, you can also attend essential skills courses in the evening, part time or online. To find courses, the following websites are useful:

Many of these courses are free, and failing that, cost less than £100. 

If you wish to brush up on your skills a home great website is BBC Skillswise which offers you a range of informational videos to help you with the practical applications of your skills, and tests you along the way.