Thousands to get free college places under back-to-work scheme
THOUSANDS of jobseekers will benefit from free third-level places under the Government's Springboard programme to help them back to work.
The 6,100 places will be available on a total of 171 different courses in 38 third-level colleges, including 21 in information and communications technology (ICT).
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn announced the new round as a report showed that 52pc of Springboard participants last year were back at work within six months, with some courses reporting employment rates of 90pc.
Most courses will start in September and this year work placements are being offered on almost all of them, reflecting the value of such experience.
Courses are for one year or less, are generally part-time, are free to jobseekers – who retain their allowance – and lead to awards at certificate, degree and post-graduate level.
As well as ICT, the employment areas being targeted by Springboard include high-end manufacturing and international financial services. Mr Quinn said: "Job opportunities exist in these areas and there is a huge potential for growth."
To be eligible for a Springboard place, a person must be unemployed with a previous history of employment, and be in receipt of one of a range of social protection payments such as jobseekers' benefit, one parent family, deserted wives or carer's allowance or widow's pension.
Since Springboard started in 2011, 16,429 jobseekers have participated on courses, supported by a €54m investment from the Exchequer, and a further €25m will be spent in the coming year.
According to analysis by the Higher Education Authority (HEA), more than six out of 10 Springboard participants completed their course and, of those who withdrew earlier, almost one-third did so because they got a job.
Overall, an average of 64pc of Springboard participants graduated, with the highest rate, 70pc, among those studying biopharma-pharmachem, while the lowest, 57pc, was from courses in the area of food and beverage manufacturing.
While the majority of participants are male, aged 25-39, there is increased uptake both by women and by the over-45s. The growth in female participants is highest at postgraduate level and in skills areas such as biopharma-pharmachem.
Unemployed people who already have a third-level qualification, but clearly feel the need to acquire new skills in order to secure a job, are turning to Springboard in ever greater numbers.
While in 2011 68pc of participants already had a higher education qualification, by last year this had increased to 87pc.
There has also been a rise in the number of participants who have been out of work for 12 months or more.
This is a group that traditionally finds it hardest to get back to work, but the HEA analysis shows Springboard graduates are bucking the trend.