In light of Covid-19, the higher education sector has implemented and expanded a range of initiatives to assist those who may be working in a sector that has been impacted by the global pandemic and who with to upskill or reskill.
On 24 July 2020 as part of the Government’s announcement on the July stimulus package an additional funding allocation of €47.5m was provided for Higher Education skills-related programmes.
A total allocation of €22.5m will be provided to create an additional 2,650 places across the full range of existing part-time and full-time postgraduate taught programmes in a number of specified skills areas. The skill areas identified will serve not only the requirements of the new economic model envisaged by the Programme for Government but also specific economic and social needs arising from COVID19.
A total of €15m was provided for Modular Skills provision which are shorter, more focused courses/modules that can be offered in a flexible manner and allow people to gain important skills without taking a considerable period away from the labour market. The modular courses will be accredited in such a way as to provide building blocks to a full qualification should the student so wish. Each module will also be stand-alone so that participants can acquire skills and put them into practice immediately in the workplace. It is expected to fill c2,500 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) places under this initiative.
Over 15,000 places are also available as part of Springboard+ 2020 and the graduate conversion courses under HCI Pillar 1. Places are available on courses in a wide range of skills areas, including artificial intelligence, smart factory technology, sustainable energy, medical device technology and cybersecurity. Courses begin from autumn 2020 through to early 2021.
Springboard+ courses provide opportunities to up and reskill to people who are unemployed, those looking to return to the workforce after a period away and those in employment. Courses are offered across the National Qualification Framework from Level 6 to 9 and are delivered by public and private higher education providers across the country. The majority of courses are delivered in a flexible format making them accessible regardless of the learner’s physical location. All courses provide job-readiness modules and most offer the opportunity for work placement, project-based learning or industry site visits were appropriate.
In relation to undergraduate courses, the CAO process applications for undergraduate courses on behalf of the Higher Education Institutions. Decisions on admissions, including deadlines for submission of applications, are made by the HEIs who then instruct the CAO to make offers to successful candidates. As such, neither I nor my Department have a role in the operation of the CAO, and it is not with my remit to extend CAO deadlines.