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.
One of the key features of the NTF is its flexibility and the way it responds to changing economic/labour market conditions. 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 levy was increased by 0.1% in 2018 to 0.8% and by a further 0.1% in both 2019 and 2020 in order to fund investment in education and training relevant to the skills needs of the economy. These increases were accompanied by a package of reforms to the Fund. An independent report of the NTF which was commissioned by my Department and undertaken by Indecon contained a number of key recommendations on the future direction of the Fund such as additional support for close to labour market skills requirements and increased focus on supporting in-company training. As part of Budget 2019 a number of steps have been taken to align with these specific recommendations set out in the Independent report so that training for those in employment has risen from 17% of total NTF expenditure in 2013 to 41% in 2019:
- There has been significant additional funding provided to continue the expansion of apprenticeships, including new apprenticeships.
- The number of places on Springboard has been increased with an emphasis on meeting the demand for those in employment.
- Additional funding has been provided to support Skillnet Ireland, who actively work with businesses to meet the skills gaps in the economy.
- There has been investment in a new ETB employee development programme to upskill lower skilled workers and support SMEs.
The trend in continued support from the NTF for those in employment is likely to continue in 2020, complemented by targeted support in upskilling people to prepare them for entering the workforce.
Additional information on the fund can be sourced in the 2019 expenditure report for the fund which is available at the link: