In the Programme for Government we undertook to introduce a more focussed, targeted approach regarding the States engagement with and support of the unemployed - to keep them close to the labour market, provide education and training opportunities and to get them back into the workforce. The Government is tackling unemployment generally through the twin strategies of the "Action Plan for Jobs" and "Pathways to Work".
In 2012, the Government launched its "Action Plan for Jobs", which is an ambitious jobs plan that aims to create 100,000 new positions by 2016 and a further 100,000 by 2020. My Department played a key role in the successful implementation of this plan with a number of initiatives that were monitored on a regular basis to track progress. These initiatives were implemented in conjunction with several other Government Departments and Agencies to ensure that the country's workforce receive relevant training and upskilling through a variety of further education and training programmes which is a vital element of this country's recovery from the current downturn.
As I am sure the Deputy will be aware the Government launched its 2013 "Action Plan for Jobs" last month. This Plan will build on the success of the 2012 plan and will support employment creation and provide targeted assistance to those who are unemployed to help them access the labour market. My Department will play a central role in this Plan in providing relevant education and training to assist the unemployed to enter or re-enter the workforce. With a rapidly changing economy, the measures the Department will take this year are focused on aligning the education and training system with labour market needs, addressing skills gaps where there are real opportunities for employment and also targeting youth and the long-term unemployed.
To complement the "Action Plan for Jobs", the Irish Government also introduced a new Integrated Employment and Support service entitled 'Intreo', which is being managed under the aegis of the Department of Social Protection. The services and supports involved were previously provided by three distinct State services and the innovative integration of these supports has facilitated the development of a co-ordinated structure which provides unemployed people, particularly the long term unemployed, with options and assistance in finding jobs or referrals to appropriate education and training. In doing so, "Intreo" provides a "one-stop-shop" service.
In addition to these policy initiatives, and despite reducing resources, the Government will fund up to 430,000 education and training places across the range of provision in the higher education, further education and training sectors in 2013. Places have been prioritised specifically for those who have been unemployed for 12 months or more. My Department will continue to work closely with all relevant Government Departments and Agencies to ensure that the Government is putting the right measures in place to ensure people can upskill and reskill in the areas where skills are in demand.