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Free College Courses to Upskill Workers Post-Pandemic | Government Stimulus Plan

Measures to stimulate job creation and upskilling of workers announced today by the government include subsidies for employers, thousands of new places in Further and Higher Education courses and an expansion of employment support schemes.

Simon Harris, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, and Heather Humphreys, Minister for Social Protection, announced this afternoon that the government’s July stimulus plan will provide courses and opportunities to upskill people whose livelihoods have been impacted by the Covid-19 crisis.

In a press release from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Minister Harris and Minister Humphreys disclosed measures designed to get people back to work or education. The combined value of the measures from both Ministers is over €200 million.

The aim of the programmes was described as aiming to upskill, reskill, retrain and provide experience to people to enable them to avail of employment opportunities.

Some of the measures announced include:

  • An enhancement of the JobsPlus Subsidy Scheme which will provide subsidies up to €7,500 over two years for employers who hire someone who is under 30 and unemployed.
  • 35,500 new places in Further and Higher Education to help people to reskill and change their careers if necessary.
  • 45,500 new places in employment support schemes, such as a new work experience programme, as well as extensions to the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance and the Back to Education Allowances.

Employers will, for the first time, receive financial incentives to take on new apprentices. Employers who choose to hire an apprentice in key areas will be eligible for an up-front payment of €2,000. If the employer retains their apprentice after a 12-month period, they will be eligible for a further payment of €1000. 

The Irish Times reported that there will be over 7,000 subsidised course places in universities and institutes of technology. This includes around 3,300 post-graduate courses, aimed at new graduates or those who have a degree and are returning to education. Students will have to pay about 10 percent of the usual €9,000 cost.

A further 3,000 shorter upskilling courses in smaller areas of study, such as digital skills will be provided in third level institutions. These “modular courses” will be aimed at employed people who would like to upskill without a full-time course. The majority of additional course places will be provided in the sectors of further education and training. These courses will be free to access and aimed at workers who lost their jobs or wish to upskill or retrain in areas where there are skills gaps.

Minister Harris commented that “the pandemic has had a disproportionate effect on younger workers and those in lower paid occupations. The pace of workplace change has also accelerated; digital skills are essential in almost all occupations.”

He noted that “upskilling, reskilling and refreshing of skills need to be supported throughout people’s working lives.”

Minister Humphreys said that these measures are in addition to the income support measures already in place, such as Pandemic Unemployment Payment that has been extended to continue to April next year.

 

Julia Brick – Reporter