I propose to take Questions Nos. 277 and 278 together.
The National Training Fund (NTF) was established by the National Training Fund Act, 2000, as a dedicated fund to support the training of those in employment, and those seeking employment. The Act also provides for the funding of research to provide information on existing and likely future skills requirements of the economy.
The creation of the fund was announced in Budget 2000 by the then Minister for Finance to raise the skills of those in employment, to give jobseekers relevant skills and to facilitate lifelong learning. The NTF replaced the Apprenticeship Levy which was set up under The Industrial Training (Apprenticeship Levy) Act 1994. In May 2010, responsibility for the NTF was transferred from the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation to the Minister for Education and Skills.
During the recession, the focus moved sharply from training those in employment to supporting unemployed people back into the workplace. However there has been a fundamental shift in the labour market over the last 6 years with unemployment falling from a 16% high in 2012 to 5.6% in February 2019. This has been reflected in a changed and rebalanced suite of NTF-funded programmes to support the larger working population, to address the higher demand for lifelong learning as the influence of technology increases and to seek to address emerging areas of skills and labour shortage.
The NTF enables more flexible responses to changing economic/labour market conditions. As the economic climate has improved, expenditure on training for those in employment has increased with a corresponding reduction in expenditure on training for those seeking employment. This trend is evident from 2014 to 2018 and will continue in 2019.
Following a consultation process, the Government, as part of Budget 2018, decided to raise the rate of the National Training Fund (NTF) levy by 0.1% in 2018 to 0.8%. As part of Budget 2019, the levy was raised by a further 0.1% to 0.9% and by 0.1% in 2020 on the basis of the implementation of planned reforms.
An independent review of the National Training Fund was commissioned by the Department of Education and Skills as part of the package of reforms. This independent review, which was undertaken by Indecon, was published by the Minister for Education and Skills on 17 August 2018. The report made 14 specific recommendations across 4 key areas:
- Reform of the future direction of the NTF.
- Utilising the NTF to support investment in Higher Education.
- Enhancing enterprise engagement and input to NTF priorities.
- Improvements in monitoring/evaluation of the NTF.
An Implementation Plan to deliver the recommendations contained in the Independent Review was published as part of Budget 2019 along with details of a new advisory group to the National Skills Council in order optimise enterprise engagement on NTF priorities.
I attach a file showing the amount collected from the NTF levy and the expenditure as requested and the number of participants funded by the National Training Fund from 2010 to 2018, which is the information available.
Additional information is available in the recently published expenditure report available at the following link: