Education sector to offer thousands of free courses to workers affected by pandemic

Courses open to returners to the workforce, those in employment and recent graduates

Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris said the third level sector  has responded swiftly and effectively to the challenges that have arisen over recent months. Photograph: Crispin Rodwell

Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris said the third level sector has responded swiftly and effectively to the challenges that have arisen over recent months. Photograph: Crispin Rodwell

 

More than 14,000 free and subsidised higher-education courses in areas ranging from data analytics to construction are to be provided to upskill workers whose livelihoods have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The €30 million initiative includes many short, stand-alone modular courses, as well as places on existing full-time and part-time postgraduate courses.

Courses will be open to those returning to the workforce, those in employment and recent graduates.

All participants – with the exception of people looking to return to the workforce – will contribute 10 per cent of the course cost.

Those in receipt of certain welfare payments, including the pandemic unemployment payment, will be eligible to undertake part-time courses free of charge.

A detailed breakdown of the courses will be posted on the Higher Education Authority’s website (hea.ie).

Most courses will be delivered in a flexible manner, allowing people to gain important skills without taking a considerable period away from the labour market.

Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris said the courses are funded under the Government’s jobs stimulus package to help get people back to work .

Almost 11,600 places will be in short modular courses, along with just over 2,500 postgraduate places.

Mr Harris said the higher-education sector has responded swiftly and effectively to the challenges that have arisen over recent months.

“The courses we are launching today will form a further response to the impacts of the global pandemic, providing upskilling and reskilling places for those who have been most affected and ensuring that they have the skills most needed by employers today,” he said.

“Many courses focus on future proofing the skills of those in employment, particularly in roles that may be impacted by digitalisation.”

He said the courses will enable people across the country to embark on new pathways, or refresh or reskill in their employment.

“We must ensure a jobs-led recovery by putting upskilling and SME supports centre stage. This is a crucial part of the jigsaw,” he said,

Eligible participants must have at least a level-eight (honours degree) qualification or equivalent prior to acceptance onto a course.

Exact academic eligibility requirements will be determined by individual providers and may depend on the nature of the course.

Eligible applicants must be ordinarily resident in Ireland and must meet the nationality and EU residency rules which apply to courses under the Springboard programme .

Modular courses will be stand-alone so that participants can gain skills and put them into practice immediately in the workplace, but are also accredited in such a way as to provide building blocks to a full qualification should the student so wish.

More than 500 modular courses will be available across a broad range of subjects in 32 higher-education institutions.

They represent a new route into lifelong learning, and provide upskilling and reskilling opportunities for those who need it, while ensuring that they remain close to the labour market.

Mr Harris added: “This is exactly the kind of initiative we need to increase Irish university capacity to extract and adapt high-demand modules from existing programmes, and develop tailored courses, to suit the needs of enterprise and lifelong learning.”

The postgraduate places will be on 207 courses in 23 public and private higher-education institutions.

The places are available on courses in a wide range of skills areas, including data analytics, environmental sciences, engineering, tourism and hospitality, ICT, and health and welfare, including medical technology.

Alan Wall, Higher Education Authority chief executive, said his organisation was working in partnership with higher-education institutions to “unlock the flexibility of third level in dealing with difficult times.”

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