Homemakers and working people are to be eligible for free job-specific college courses previously targeted at the unemployed.
More than 35,000 people have already availed of the free courses run by third-level colleges and private providers since Springboard was first established in 2011. However, up to now, it was a requirement that applicants were unemployed or in short-time work and receiving one of a list of social welfare payments.
The only exception was for skills conversion courses for people hoping to work in information and communications technology (ICT). Such courses accounted for more than 50 out of 180 courses offered through Springboard last year.
Now prospective course providers will also be expected to cater for homemakers, Education Minister Richard Bruton announced yesterday. He highlighted the fact that 80% of those who have completed past Springboard courses went on to secure employment.
The programme is managed for his department by the Higher Education Authority which said the initiative is being expanded due to strong employment growth.
“For the first time, homemakers will be able to avail of the free higher education courses, having previously not been eligible. This will facilitate those with home duties who are now in a position to make the transition back into the workplace,” said a HEA spokesperson.
In addition, people who are already working can apply for courses to equip them for bio-pharma and medical devices jobs.
With more than 8,000 jobs expected to be created by 2020 in those sectors, the HEA hopes Springboard can address the existing skills gaps.
It has issued an invitation to colleges and other course providers to make proposals for upskilling programmes to be delivered this year.
It expects that details of the courses selected for funding should be finalised by June when applications will open online at www.springboardcourses.ie.
The industries for which Springboard courses have so far prepared workers include ICT, bio-pharma and other manufacturing sectors, construction, hospitality and international financial services.
Mr Bruton said it is hoped to be able to expand the Springboard model further in the years ahead.
“When the initiative was first introduced in 2011, unemployment was at 15%.
“Unemployment has now dropped to 6.8% and over 200,000 more people are at work than in early 2012,” he said.
Springboard courses are a mix of full-time and part-time and lead to qualifications ranging from higher certificate to master’s degree levels.
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