People with jobs will now be eligible for free third level courses

Springboard+ initiative previously targeted at unemployed in need of upskilling

Minister for Education Richard Bruton: “Springboard+ is a key part of the Government’s strategy to ensure we are planning for the future skills needs of our economy.” Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Minister for Education Richard Bruton: “Springboard+ is a key part of the Government’s strategy to ensure we are planning for the future skills needs of our economy.” Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

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Thousands of free or heavily subsidised third level courses in areas where there are skills shortages are to be made available to people in employment for the first time.

The Springboard+ initiative has until now been heavily targeted at unemployed people in need of upskilling to help them to re-enter the labour market.

With unemployment falling, courses will now be made available to all people irrespective of their employment status.

The courses, which range from higher certificates to master’s degree level, have recently been offered in areas where there are emerging skills needs, such as the technology and biopharma sectors.

Under a number of new changes, higher certificate courses will remain free to all participants.

For employed participants on courses ranging from degree to master’s level, the Government will fund 90 per cent of the cost. Participants will be liable for the remainder of the fee, which will typically be in the region of several hundred euro.

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

Minister for Education Richard Bruton is due to issue a call on Thursday to all higher education providers for course proposals which will be funded this year.

It is expected about 6,000 course places in colleges across the State will be funded.

Lifelong learning

Mr Bruton said the changes reflected the Government’s emphasis on the importance of lifelong learning and upskilling.

“Springboard+ is a key part of the Government’s strategy to ensure we are planning for the future skills needs of our economy, which is critical to delivering on our ambitions as a nation,” he said. “We need to continue to focus on ways to address skills needs that are arising due to both the changing world of work, and our welcome move towards full employment.”

John Halligan, Minister of State with responsibility for skills, said 80 per cent of participants in Springboard+ between 2011 and 2016 were no longer on the live register.

“I am delighted that, while continuing to support the unemployed and those seeking to return to the labour market, from 2018 we will be able to facilitate people in employment to avail of this initiative,” he said.

Applicants who wish to participate in Springboard+ courses this year will find full details on the approved courses on a dedicated website (www.springboardcourses.ie) during June 2018.

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