An additional 7,600 higher education places are to be made accessible through the government’s free and subsidised upskilling programmes over the next three years, the Department of Education has announced.
In a press release on Wednesday, the government has announced that almost 17,000 new places are to be made available to people seeking to upskill or reskill through Springboard+ 2020 and Human Capital Initiative (HCI) Pillar 1, with an additional 7,600 places introduced over the next three years compared to 2019.
Minister for Education and Skills Joe McHugh, Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor and Minister of State for Training Skills, Innovation, Research and Development John Halligan stated that 13,000 places will commence in 2020, with 4,000 places coming in the next two years.
2,129 places across both programmes are the product of €10 million allocated by the government in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Springboard+, which is managed by the Higher Education Authority on behalf of the Department of Education and Skills, began in 2011 as part of the government’s Jobs Initiative.
Minister McHugh said: “Springboard+ training programmes provide people who are unemployed, those looking to return to the workforce and those in employment with a great opportunity to upskill or reskill in areas in which employers need skilled workers.”
“I am particularly pleased that we are able to provide additional places this year to enable an enhanced response to skills needs arising from the Covid-19 pandemic,” he continued.
The Human Capital Initiative (HCI) was announced as part of Budget 2019. This initiative was to provide additional capacity across the Higher Education Sector.
Approval was given for courses under HCI Pillar 1 to run for three academic years from 2020/21 to 2022/23. 2,039 places will be funded on 79 courses in 2020/21, with 1,900 places being funded in each of 2021/22 and 2022/23.
Minister Mitchell O’Connor said: “The higher education sector has responded swiftly and effectively to the challenges that have arisen over recent months.”
She added: “The courses we are launching today will form a further response to the impacts of the global pandemic, providing upskilling and reskilling places for those who have been most affected. HCI Pillar 1 will provide specialisation and conversion courses for graduates to ensure that they have the skills most needed by employers today.”
HCI Pillar 1 courses are to be delivered in all of Ireland’s universities, 10 institutes of technology, and nine privately-run colleges.
Halligan said: “I am pleased to see that over 90 per cent of the courses provided under Springboard+ 2020 will be delivered in a more flexible format. This will enable upskilling and reskilling even in circumstances where social distancing measures continue to be in place.”
Springboard+ 2020 and HCI Pillar 1 are part of an investment of €57.62 million in the 2020/21 academic year from the National Training Fund with co-funding from the European Union under the European Social Fund, as part of the ESF Programme for Employability, Inclusion and Learning 2014-2020.
All courses under Springboard+ and HCI Pillar 1 were selected by a panel that was separate from the government, with professionals from industry and education following a tendering process.
Additional funding of €10 million was approved by the government as a response to upskilling and reskilling needs arising from the coronavirus pandemic. This provides for a total of 2,129 additional places across both programs, a 19% increase on the original planned funding.