Scheme aims to reskill 6,000 jobless


UNIVERSITY OF Limerick, University College Dublin, Dublin City University and University College Cork have all signed up to offer courses under a new programme to be announced this week offering higher education opportunities for those out of work.

The Government will announce the creation of 6,000 part-time higher education and training places for the unemployed this week as part a plan to get people back to work.

The three-year “Springboard” initiative is aimed at skilled workers who have lost their jobs and who are living on benefits.

It will offer them the opportunity to access free higher education and training without affecting their right to receive welfare payments.

The programme, managed by the Higher Education Authority, will cost about €22 million over three years.

Up to 6,000 higher education and training places will be provided in sectors expected to provide the jobs of the future.

About one-third of all the education places will be offered in the technology sector.

They range from a diploma in cloud computing offered by Dublin Institute of Technology to a certificate in solar energy offered by Dundalk Institute of Technology.

Courses and training places will also be provided in high-growth areas such as green economy and the food and beverage sector.

Most places are provided on a part-time or flexible basis and will last for a year.

As well as the four universities offering courses, most institutes of technology across the country and several private education colleges, such as Dublin Business School, will provide places under the scheme.

Dundalk Institute of Technology is offering a range of science, computing and engineering courses under the initiative. These include certificate in bio-energy, sustainable plumbing and heating, and food supply chain management, and a higher diploma in science and computing.

Participants must be unemployed and qualified to level five of the National Framework of Qualifications award or hold a Fetac award to level six.

They will be able to retain their jobseeker’s allowance or jobseeker’s benefit but they must continue to look for jobs while studying.

Unemployed people will be able to apply for part-time and flexible higher education courses through a new “CAO-style” online application on the website

The website will provide those interested in pursuing further education opportunities with a single location to identify one of the hundreds of courses on offer.

A person will only be allowed to take up one offer of a course under the programme.

The previous government first announced a €20 million higher education fund, which has since been branded the “Springboard initiative”, in the December 2010 budget.

The first call for proposals from the higher education sector was launched in January. The initiative will be formally launched by Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn this week.

In an answer to a recent parliamentary question, Mr Quinn said the initiative is designed to help unemployed people who hold qualifications at a required level.

They must also have a history of employment in construction, manufacturing or other sectors of the economy in which employment levels are unlikely to recover to pre-recession levels.

“The fund also targets those with a previous history of employment with higher levels of qualifications who may also require additional upskilling or reskilling to enable them to re-enter employment,” he said.