Further education and training (FET) in Ireland has long played a critical role in labour market activation and in upskilling and reskilling people. In Oct 2020, 295 860 people were receiving the pandemic unemployment payment; after the second national lockdown was introduced on 21 October, the number increased by 51 707 in just one week. To these should be added 211 492 reported on the live register at the end of September.
Certain sectors and occupations have been impacted greatly: examples are hospitality, services and retail. Skills challenges related to Brexit and automation still exist. Recent investment in FET aims to upskill, reskill, retrain and provide experience to individuals to enable them to avail of employment opportunities. Additional Government investment in VET was first announced in the July stimulus package; this also included 35 500 new places in FET to help people reskill and, if necessary, change career.
Further measures were announced in the October government budget: EUR 64 million to continue the work of the July stimulus package; 50 000 further education and training places in 2020/21; and additional capital funding of EUR 15.5 million for the FET sector. Other interventions are proposed in the annual budget.
The July stimulus apprenticeship incentivisation scheme applies to all national apprenticeship programmes and to any new apprenticeship programmes launched in 2020. The scheme offers apprenticeship employers a EUR 3 000 payment for each new apprentice registered between 1 March and 31 December 2020. EUR 2 000 per apprentice is payable at the point of registration. An additional EUR 1 000 will be paid in 2021 for each eligible apprentice retained on apprenticeship.
Skills to compete aims to support those who have lost their jobs as a result of Covid-19, to re-join the workforce. The initiative offers targeted, modularised training and combines three strands of FET provision:
- transversal skills development to help employability;
- building digital capabilities;
- specific NFQ Level 4-6 (EQF 3—5) courses targeting growth sectors and occupations.
The department of further and higher education, research, innovation and science is funding 19 000 full- and part-time places through the programme.
The Mitigating educational disadvantage fund of EUR 8 million will be used to support community education and to engage disadvantaged learners. Funding an additional 1600 skills to advance places aims to equip employees with the skills to progress in their current job, or to take advantage of new job opportunities. During the first three quarters of 2020, over 6 500 learners have participated.
There is support for a green recovery by rolling out a new retrofitting training scheme and a new climate action upskilling scheme. Additional funding of EUR 8 million has been allocated for retrofitting upskilling infrastructure investments to expand student places, upgrade existing infrastructure, modernise provision and progress the digital agenda.
A EUR 30 million investment in free and subsidised higher education places will help get people back to work and upskill workers while continuing to manage the impact of Covid-19. The funding will provide 11 597 places on short, modular courses together with an additional 2 555 postgraduate places.
Budget 2021 - Ministers Harris and Collins announce a range of measures including €50 million fund to provide financial assistance for full-time students, new reskilling and retraining package and extension of Apprenticeship scheme