Government to announce thousands of free courses to upskill workers hit by Covid crisis

Employers are to receive financial incentives for first time to take on new apprentices

Thousands of free or subsidised third level and further education places are to be provided to upskill individuals whose livelihoods have been hit by the Covid-19 crisis.

In addition, employers are to receive financial incentives for the first time to take on new apprentices across a range of areas.

The Government is set to announce details of the €100 million re-training package on Friday afternoon.

It is understood it will include a total of about 35,000 places across further and higher education in areas where there are acute skills shortages such as ICT, high-end manufacturing, data analytics and artificial intelligence.


Higher education

Government sources say there will be more than 7,000 subsidised course places available across universities and institutes of technology.

This will include about 3,300 post-graduate courses, which will be aimed at new graduates or those with a degree who decide to return to education.

Students will be required to pay about 10 per cent - or €900 - of the normal €9,000 cost.

In addition, there will be a further 3,000 shorter upskilling courses provided in third level institutions in smaller areas of study such as digital skills.

These “modular courses” will be targeted at those in employment who wish to upskill without taking on a full-time course.

However, the bulk of additional course places - more than 28,000 - will be provided in the further education and training sector.

These courses will be aimed at workers who have lost their jobs or who are seeking to upskill or retrain in areas where there are skills gaps, according to sources. These will be free to access.

Separately, employers who decide to hire an apprentice in key areas will be eligible for a €2,000 up-front payment. If the employer retains the apprentice after 12 months, they will be eligible for a further euro1,000 payment.

A formal announcement is due to be made by Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris and Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys on Friday afternoon.

Start dates

Meanwhile, most colleges have confirmed that first year students are due to begin their third level courses in late September/early October.

In most cases, colleges are due to open for first year students on September 28th.

Minister Simon Harris welcomed confirmation of opening dates for third level colleges following a meeting with representative bodies.

“Today, we all agreed the induction of first-students was a priority and all three organisations advised preparations are underway to welcome first year students from late September,” he said.

“This is very welcome and will come as a huge relief to students. It is essential we do everything we can to offer them the college experience despite the challenges Covid brings.”

He said all education partners agreed that the return of third level must be safe and guided by the best public health advice.

“We will continue to work together to ensure we protect our students and staff,” he said.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent