Thousands who lost jobs to get free training in digital skills under recovery plan

Retrofitting homes to be focus of re-training and new bid to tackle student digital divide

Minister for Further and Higher Simon Harris said  Covid-19 has accelerated us towards a “digitally dominated economy”. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Minister for Further and Higher Simon Harris said Covid-19 has accelerated us towards a “digitally dominated economy”. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

Thousands of people who have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic will be provided with free training and education in areas such as digital skills and retrofitting homes under a new recovery plan.

Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris said an additional €225 million will be invested in the further and higher education sector as part of a major upskilling and reskilling programme.

Separately, Minister for Education Norma Foley said a €66 million package will go towards ensuring all primary schools have access to high-speed broadband.

In addition, funding will go towards a plan to tackle the “digital divide” by ensuring all students have access to digital devices and high-speed broadband.

The further and higher education retraining package, meanwhile, includes an expansion of the “skills to compete” programme, which is aimed at people who have lost their job as a result of the pandemic and where they are unlikely to return.

It will equip trainees with digital and other skills in areas with strong employment opportunities such as ICT programming, software development, web development, healthcare assistance, special needs assistance or logistics.

‘Green skills’

In addition, a new “green skills” programme will include skills focus on areas such as retrofitting, bricklaying, carpentry, electrics, plastering and plumbing.

Opportunities for modular training in these areas will be made available to 60,000 Further Education and Training learners.

The recovery plan includes a €40 million investment technological universities to drive reforms in regional skills development and enterprise engagement, digital infrastructure and support staff development.

In addition, just over €70 million will be invested in a research and innovation “national grand challenges programme” which will focus on the need for a transition to a climate neutral and clean economy, as well as the challenges of digital transition.

Mr Harris said while the future world of work is still uncertain, it is clear that Covid-19 has accelerated us towards a “digitally dominated economy”.

“Our education, research and innovation systems will therefore become even more important,” he said.

“ To keep pace with future change and to ensure people can return to sustainable jobs, a higher and further education model centred on apprenticeships, transferable skills and flexible education responding to evolving skills needs, and lifelong learning is required.”

He said the package announced by the Government today will help us respond to these challenges.

Programme

Mr Harris said the new national grand challenges programme in research will be used to incentivise researchers to deliver tangible impact for society in areas such as health, agriculture and climate.”

The transformation fund for technological universities – to be administered by the Higher Education Authority – will be aimed at reforming academic programmes and re-defining student pathways in response to local, regional and national needs.

He said the activities that will be supported will include staff learning from the recent online education experience to look at new and flexible ways to respond to students and regional skills needs.

It will see technological universities offering enhanced learner access and greater digital connectivity between institutions, staff, students and the society and enterprise in the regions in which they live, work and learn.