Homemakers have filled more than a quarter of free places on some courses aimed at providing more skilled workers in expanding employment sectors.
The eligibility for more than 200 Springboard+ courses was broadened this year to allow applications from people on homemaking duties who want to return to the workforce.
Since 2011, at a cost of over €100m, around 28,000 people have been funded to take part in courses in a range of sectors where skills shortages have been flagged to the Government.
The schemes were initially aimed solely at the unemployed to help them revise their skillset and improve their chances of getting back to work. This has more been widened to include the self-employed and employed who wanted to reskill.
In May, new courses to begin this autumn were announced with an estimated 6,500 places to be filled, with homemakers eligible for the first time.
Most of those courses have already commenced, and have been 90% filled by nearly 4,500 people.
The Department of Education said that 28% of places on advanced manufacturing programmes have been taken up by homemakers. Those 90 students are in addition to 84 who have begun business and entrepreneurship courses, or 26% of entrants to those programmes.
Another 85 homemakers account for 25% of the latest Springboard+ classes to begin this autumn under the information and communications technology (ICT) category. They are among more than 300 homemakers to fill the places taken up so far.
“Springboard+ 2017 was opened up to homemakers to enable those who have spent time at home undertaking caring duties, and who wish to return to the workforce, to receive assistance in upskilling and reskilling to enable them to do so,” said John Halligan, minister of state for training and skills.
The qualifications that students can earn from Springboard+ courses range from certificate up to masters degree level.
Overall, just over half the 4,491 people to begin courses are applicants who are not jobseekers, the group at which programmes were targeted in their first few years.
The investment in those beginning this year’s Springboard+courses is estimated to be around €27.5m, with the Higher Education Authority managing the scheme on behalf of the Department of Education.
In its early operation, the Springboard system had difficulties due to strict eligibility criteria in filling some courses. However, these restrictions were eased by then education minister Ruairi Quinn to help ensure courses were not operating below capacity.
ICT courses for unemployed people were first offered in 2012, and now account for nearly 10% of the places filled so far. The previous Springboard and ICT skills conversion programmes were amalgamated two years ago to operate as a joint initiative under the Springboard+ brand.
The latest evaluation of the scheme found that 61% of graduates were working within three to six months of completing courses begun in 2014, an improvement from 37% among those who started courses in 2011.
Programmes with nearly a quarter of this year’s planned 6,471 places have yet to commence and are still open for application at springboardcourses.ie.
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