The Springboard+ 2021 programme will offer 10,158 free and subsidised places on 294 courses this year. Some 1,100 places on one and two year ICT graduate conversion courses are also on offer under the initiative.
Details of this year's initiative were announced this week by Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, and Minister of State for Skills and Further Education, Niall Collins.
Springboard+ courses are at Level 6 (certificate ) to Level 9 (masters ) on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ ) and are delivered by public and private higher education providers around the country.
"As we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, we will need to ensure that people have the skills they need," Minister Harris said. "Springboard+ and the graduate conversion courses under the Human Capital Initiative provide a targeted response to skills needs, enabling people to upskill and reskill in areas of critical importance which have come to the fore as a result of Covid-19, including cybersecurity, virtual reality, health innovation, and logistics. Programmes in climate/sustainability and energy which are central to the Programme for Government are also being funded."
Now in its 10th year, more than 75,000 people have benefited from the programme to date. The Springboard+ programme is managed by the Higher Education Authority, on behalf of the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science.
Funding is allocated to Springboard+ from the National Training Fund (NTF ) on an annual basis, with more than €290m of funding provided since it commenced in 2011.
The Human Capital Initiative will see 1,869 courses funded for graduates. The initiative provides additional capacity across the higher education sector to meet priority skill needs for enterprise. Graduate conversion programmes under the HCI offer incentivised places for graduates to reskill in areas of skills shortage and emerging technologies. These are run alongside, and complementary to, the Springboard+ offerings.
Approval has already been granted for courses under HCI Pillar 1 to run for the 2021/22 academic year, as part of the approval process last year, with 1,869 places to be funded on 78 courses in 2021/22.
"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," Minister Collins said. "I am particularly pleased that courses provided under Springboard+ 2021 will continue to be delivered in a flexible manner, 90 per cent of Springboard+ courses will be delivered in a more flexible format which will enable more people to engage in upskilling and reskilling."
Springboard+ provides higher education courses in areas of identified skills needs. Courses are free for the unemployed, previously self-employed, and returners to the workforce. Courses are also free for employed people on NFQ Level 6 courses. For employed participants on courses NFQ Level 7 to 9, 90 per cent of the course fee is funded by the State, with participants required to contribute just 10 per cent of the fee.
Alan Wall, CEO of the HEA, said: "As Springboard+ reaches its 10th year, we celebrate our 75,000 learners who have upskilled or reskilled to improve their career opportunities or who have simply taken their first steps towards re-entering the workforce after some time away. We also celebrate the work of our higher education institutions, collaborating with enterprise in contributing to Ireland’s life-long learning agenda and meeting Ireland’s national and regional skills needs."
Those who wish to participate in Springboard+ 2021 or HCI Pillar 1 courses will find full details of the approved courses on the www.springboardcourses.ie Applications are open and a helpline for applicants will be available on (1800 ) 303523.