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UL secures 700 funded education places for upskilling as part of COVID-19 response

Wed, 15 Jul 2020

Funding for more than 700 education places has been approved for people looking to upskill or reskill at University of Limerick after Government announced a national funding strategy through the Springboard+ 2020 and Human Capital Initiative (HCI) Pillar 1 programmes,

Reacting to an announcement made by Governement of an additional €10m allocated for training and upskilling in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Dean of Graduate and Professional studies at UL, Professor Ann Ledwith, said “we are very excited about the funding that we have been awarded through Springboard and Pillar 1 of the Human Capital Initiative. We will be able to deliver 23 new programmes to over 700 students with 477 of them starting in September." 

Minister for Education and Skills Joe McHugh TD, Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor and Minister of State for Training Skills, Innovation, Research and Development John Halligan have announced that almost 17,000 new places are to be made available to people seeking to upskill or reskill throughout the country.

Professor Ledwith added: “These new, funded programmes provide students with the Future Skills they will need to be successful in the new Digital Economy, they include areas like Data Science, Agile Business, Data Analytics and Environmental Science."

The national announcement includes an increase of more than 2,000 places on both programmes as a result of investment by the Government of an additional €10m in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Under the program, places are available on courses in a wide range of skills areas, including artificial intelligence, smart factory technology, sustainable energy, medical device technology and cybersecurity.

The National Training Fund Advisory Group has considered the principles and priorities of the National Training Fund (NTF) in light of the transformed economic and labour market landscape arising from COVID-19. These priorities were confirmed by the National Skills Council. Among these principles were:

  • the need for an immediate focus on providing relevant skills for those affected by the crisis underpinning their employability and access into sustainable and quality employment;
  • the need for focused and agile programmes consistent with the current priorities for skills provision.

Springboard+ has already experienced successful outcomes in these areas. To enable a skills-focused response to employment issues arising from the Covid-19 crisis, €10 million has been repurposed from HCI Pillar 3 to provide extra funding for upskilling and reskilling courses under Springboard+ and HCI Pillar 1.

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.”

Minister Mitchell O’Connor said: “The higher education sector has responded swiftly and effectively to the challenges that have arisen over recent months. 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.”

Minister 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.”

Approval is being given for courses under HCI Pillar 1 to run for three academic years from 2020/21 to 2022/23. Courses are in specific areas of skills need, as identified by the Skills Identification Group as part of the HCI call development process.

Springboard+ 2020 and HCI Pillar 1 represent an investment of €57.62m 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. A further €52.48m will be provided for HCI pillar 1 in subsequent years.

All courses under Springboard+ and HCI Pillar 1 were selected by an independent panel with experts from industry and education following a competitive tendering process. Courses are in areas that have been deemed by Government as being of critical importance: digital skills, soft skills, management and leadership, and the workplace of the future. Many courses focus on future proofing the skills of those in employment, particularly in roles that may be impacted by digitalisation.

Candidates who wish to participate in HCI Pillar 1 courses will find full details on the approved courses on the dedicated information and applications here.

Springboard+ is co-funded by the Government of Ireland and the European Social Fund as part of the ESF programme for employability, inclusion and learning 2014-2020