Free third-level courses on offer to help tackle skills shortages

Employed people to be eligible for Springboard+ initiative for first time

Minister for Education Richard Bruton said nearly 50,000 people have helped to re-invent themselves by using Springboard to change their careers in recent years. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Minister for Education Richard Bruton said nearly 50,000 people have helped to re-invent themselves by using Springboard to change their careers in recent years. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

Thousands of free or discounted higher-education courses are being made available to workers seeking to upskill in areas where there are skills shortages such as the technology and biopharma sectors.

The Springboard+ initiative has until recently been targeted at unemployed people to help them to re-enter the labour market.

With jobless rates falling, courses are now being made available to all people irrespective of their employment status.

A total of 8,000 places on almost 250 courses are being provided this year, with details of courses available online (www.springboardcourses.ie).

The courses, which range from higher certificate to master’s degree level, are offered in areas where there are skills needs such as information and communication technology, engineering, manufacturing and construction sectors. There are also new courses in areas such as robotics and artificial intelligence.

They are free for unemployed people, those previously self-employed and homemakers.

Free of charge

Homemakers are defined as those not in receipt of a welfare payment but have been out of the work environment for a number of years due to childcare or other caring obligations.

Those in receipt of allowances, including jobseekers’ benefit, will continue to be able to access all available courses free of charge.

For employed participants, the Government will fund 90 per cent of the cost of courses. Participants will be liable for the remainder of the fee, which will typically be in the region of several hundred euro.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton said nearly 50,000 people have helped to re-invent themselves by using Springboard to change their careers in recent years.

“This is still a very exciting pathway which we are now opening to those in employment and homemakers,” he said.

“There are now over 8,000 places on 245 courses across the country – a 25 per cent increase on last year.”

All courses approved for funding under Springboard+ are selected by an independent panel with experts from industry and education following a competitive tendering process.

Funding

In particular, courses with a proven track record in getting people back into employment are recommended for funding.

The majority of courses commence in the autumn however there are a number of courses that start later in 2018 and in early 2019.

Springboard, which is managed by the Higher Education Authority on behalf of the Department of Education, began in 2011 as part of the Government’s jobs initiative.

These courses form part of a wider strategy to boost numbers taking part in lifelong learning and upskilling.

These options are considered vital in an economy approaching full employment. A recent evaluation of the programme found that 80 per cent of participants on courses are no longer on the live register.

ICT conversion graduates had the highest employment rates in the months following graduation at 73 per cent in 2014.

A survey of participants has found that 90 per cent of respondents strongly agreed or agreed that upskilling has had a positive impact on their life.