The applications process for the Springboard initiative, offering free higher education and training for jobseekers, is now underway. In the month since it was launched, there were over 40,000 visitors to the Springboard web-page on www.bluebrick.ie/springboard and over 3,300 applications have been received.
6,000 course places are available under Springboard. They are specifically designed to meet current and future skills needs in Ireland. Over 200 individual courses are available in colleges around the country, covering sectors including international financial services, information and communications technology (ICT ), bio-pharma and pharma-chem, the green economy and languages, as well as entrepreneurship and export-orientated business start-up. All courses are part-time and are at certificate, degree and postgraduate level.
Springboard is designed to help people who have lost their jobs as a result of the recession and who need to up-skill or re-skill in order to gain sustainable employment again. To be eligible for a place on a postgraduate Springboard course applicants must have completed their undergraduate qualification three years or more ago.
To be eligible for Springboard, applicants must be unemployed for a minimum of six months as at the date at which the course starts and be in receipt of a Jobseekers payment, One Parent Family payment or be signing for social insurance credits.
Time spent on schemes including VTOS or the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance, or time in receipt of a Disability Allowance or a FÁS training allowance can count towards the six-month unemployment period. Springboard applicants must have a history of employment and be actively seeking and available to take up employment. Springboard participants in receipt of Jobseekers Benefit or Jobseekers Allowance can retain their payment where an entitlement to such a payment exists and while they continue to meet the conditions attached to these payments, including remaining available for work.
Funding for Springboard, which is managed by the Higher Education Authority, is provided by the Department of Education and Skills, and the closing date for applications is fast approaching. Most courses begin in the normal academic term, starting from September 2011, although some shorter courses begin during the summer of 2011, so applicants are advised to check the website for specific course detail.
Applications must be made online at www.bluebrick.ie/springboard Advice is also available from the any of the 34 higher education providers offering courses, at local FÁS offices, social welfare offices, and through the national Adult Guidance Service.
According to Springboard co-coordinator Mary-Liz Trant, interest in the initiative has been high since it was launched last month.
‘Popular choices include degree and masters-level courses in computer programming, web design and multi-media, and degree courses in entrepreneurship and upskilling to work in the Green Economy. All Springboard courses have practical content that is applicable to the current work environment. They are also designed to match skills with job opportunities. For example, people will be aware of the demand at the moment for skilled graduates in the ICT industry’ Mary-Liz Trant says. ‘In particular jobs areas there are actually a lot of opportunities out there.’
Courses with high number of applications to-date for Springboard’s 2011-12 academic year include a Certificate in Advanced Networking and Cloud Technology; an upskilling programme in the Pharma and medical device industries; a Six-Sigma Lean Systems course; a certificate in Creative Web Communications; a Bachelor of Science in Computing in Information Security and Digital Forensics; a CPD Certificate in Digital Imaging for Multimedia and Gaming; and a Diploma in Information Technology.
Conor Carlin, who studied for a post-graduate diploma in Financial Services Technologies at Letterkenny Institute of Technology as part of a previous labour market initiative says the course gave him both the confidence and the practical skills to secure a new job:
‘When you’re out of work for a while, your confidence takes a knock and you begin to doubt your ability. Getting back to education proved to me that I had the skills I needed, and the result was a new job that I really enjoy’, Conor Carlin says of his reskilling experience.
Previous education levels will be taken into account in the application process, and many courses can recognise the prior learning or experience of people without formal qualifications. Distance learning features on many Springboard courses, and some have a work placement element too.
Courses are part-time and vary in duration as it is a condition of eligibility that participants remain available for, and actively seeking full-time employment. The higher education providers will allow the maximum possible flexibility where participants get a job before their course is complete. Springboard will fund the fees for the full academic year in which an individual returns to employment.