Applications have opened for courses on which more than 8,000 jobseekers and working people can improve their prospects of changing careers or beginning new ones.
There are 245 courses available to applicants, an increase of 37 on last year, on the Government-funded Springboard+ programme.
The expansion of some existing courses is contributing to an overall 25% rise in the number of places available, from less than 6,500 to 8,088.
Training, Skills, and Innovation Minister John Halligan said the initiative gives excellent opportunities to working and unemployed people to upskill or reskill and keep pace with advances in technology.
“The speed of development of new technologies will inevitably affect the future workplace and there will be no escaping these changes,” he said. “What is new and innovative today will be outdated in no time. It will be vital for employees to continue to upskill and reskill to keep up to date with the latest technologies.”
Some of the new areas in which courses are being offered include robotics and artificial intelligence, while many places continue to be offered to those wishing to learn new IT skills.
For anybody accepted on a course, there is no charge if the qualification leads to is at level 6 on the national qualifications framework.
All the courses are free for prospective students who are unemployed, returning to work, or previously self-employed. However, employed participants on level 7 programmes or higher will be charged 10% of the normal fee, with the balance paid from part of the €30.4m investment in Springboard+ being announced today.
The colleges and other course providers will be paid from the National Training Fund, raised through a levy on employers, and from the EU’s European Social Fund.
The courses will be run at publicly funded and private colleges, but also by a range of other service providers and training organisations. The selection of courses and design of the scheme has been managed for the Department of Education by the Higher Education Authority.
While Springboard courses were initially only open to give free education and training for jobseekers when the initiative began in 2011, it has been expanded in recent years to homemakers and working people seeking to upskill or reskill.
Since 2015, these programmes have been promoted jointly with an ICT skills conversion programme initiated in 2012 under the Springboard+ banner.
More than 200 of this year’s courses will have a work placement element, and the length of courses varies depending on the resulting qualification, with some available to be taken part-time. Despite the broad range of eligible applicants, providers are asked to prioritise those who are long-term unemployed and meet any other eligibility criteria.