An initiative to provide over €30 million in free/subsidised places to higher education institutes under the ‘Jobs Stimulus Package’ has been announced by the Minister for Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, in an attempt to aid people to return to work, further their skills and build economic confidence during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The subsidy has been approved to support 11,597 places on short, modular courses which can be done remotely or part-time to allow people to gain skills without taking time out of the labour market. Many of the courses will focus on future-proofing the skills of those in employment, particularly in roles that may be impacted by digitalisation”.

In addition, there are a further 2,555 postgraduate places available under the new scheme. These postgraduate places will be available on 207 existing courses in 23 public and private higher education institutions; the courses include but are not limited to, Data Analytics, Engineering, and Environmental Science.

The funding aims to promote going back to work while also easing the financial burden of those seeking training/education. Speaking about the initiative, Minister Harris said: “The courses […] form a further response to the impacts of the global pandemic, providing upskilling and reskilling places for those who have been most affected ensuring that they have the skills most needed by employers today.”

These modules will be stand-alone to allow people to gain skills and put them into practice but will also be accredited in a way that will provide building blocks to a full qualification. There are 538 modular courses available across 32 higher education institutions.

Alan Wall, CEO of the Higher Education Authority (HEA) commented on the initiative stating: “it is great to see the HEA working in partnership with higher education institutions to unlock the flexibility of third level dealing with difficult times”.

The funding will be available to those returning to the workforce, already in the workforce, already in employment or recent graduates. Anyone in receipt of social welfare payments, including the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, are eligible to undertake the courses free of charge. Details of the courses will be available on the HEA website, and those interested in applying should contact the higher education institution directly for any further information.

Casey Conway – Reporter