Tuesday, 8 September 2020

Questions (854)

Rose Conway-Walsh


854. Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the details of the 35,000 further and higher education places announced in the July stimulus package; the estimated cost of each place; the breakdown of the number of places between further and higher education; when the first additional new place will be available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21739/20]

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Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

The package of funding for higher and further education and training announced as part of the July stimulus amounts to €100 million and will fund over 35,000 places to start in the current year. This includes a provision of €52.5m for additional 28,550 places in the Further Education and Training sector as follows:

- SOLAS and the Education and Training Boards developed an activation initiative in consultation with my Department and the Departments of Social Protection and Enterprise, Trade and Employment called Skills to Compete. Reflecting the needs of those displaced by the pandemic, it is built around delivering foundation skills for modern workplaces, a strong digital skills component and the specific vocational skills needed to compete for opportunities in growth areas. The framework will deliver full time courses but also substantial part time, online and blended learning elements. Skills to Compete will provide for 12,000 part time and 7,000 full time courses at a cost of €37 million.

- Skillnet Ireland, an employer-led training body predominantly serving SMEs, are also well-positioned to contribute to the response. €3 million has been provided to deliver a total of 3,550 places on Skillnet Ireland activation programmes and to support SMEs to adapt and innovate in response to the crisis. This includes supports for training the owners and managers who are critical to securing the futures of these companies.

- A €3,000 recruitment payment has been provided though the July Stimulus to any approved apprenticeship employer who takes on an apprentice between now and the end of the year. The employer will receive €2,000 on registration and a further €1,000 in 2021 to support retention. The incentive was costed to bring registrations back to the forecast level for 2020, which required €12 million in 2020 in respect of 6,000 places.

The Higher Education sector was awarded €47.5m in the stimulus package enabling an increase of 7,150 places as follows:

- The Stimulus package provided that a further additional 2,000 places are created in Springboard+ and HCI Pillar 1 programmes at a cost of €10 million.

- In addition to the expansion of these existing programmes the July Stimulus provided for two additional new programmes. Recognising the changing and increasing proportion of the workforce that are already graduates, and ensuring that the stimulus package provides opportunities as widely as possible, a new programme to create an additional 2,650 places across existing part-time and full-time postgraduate taught programmes is provided for at a cost of €22.5m in 2020.

- Funding of €15m has also been provided for an innovative new programme referred to as Modular Skills Provision. This programme will create up to 2,500 full time equivalant places on shorter, more focused courses offered in a flexible manner and through blended or online learning allowing students to gain important skills without taking a considerable period away from the labour market.