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New opportunities 50,000 extra further education and training places to be created this year

A focus is being placed on increasing digital skills and preparing the workforce for the green economy.

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Simon Harris, Minister for Further and Higher Education (Brian Lawless/PA)

Simon Harris, Minister for Further and Higher Education (Brian Lawless/PA)

Simon Harris, Minister for Further and Higher Education (Brian Lawless/PA)

Further Education Minister Simon Harris has confirmed an additional 50,000 places in further education and training courses will be created this year.

The extra places will bring the total number of courses in further education and training to 300,000, up from about 250,000 last year.

These include apprenticeships, traineeships and post-Leaving Cert courses.

A range of full-time and part-time courses will be offered, with a particular focus on increasing digital skills and preparing the workforce for the green economy.

The extra places are part of a €120 million fund announced in the Budget in October to upskill people affected by the pandemic.

Mr Harris said: “What I see my job is doing is really ramping up the availability of training courses and education courses around the country. So in 2020, we provided around 245,000 places in adult training and education, they come in all different shapes and sizes around the country.

“The plan now as a result of the budget announcement is that in 2021, we will provide just under 300,000.”

There is a course out there for you, there is training out there for you, there is an opportunity to upskill... just look around and find the one Simon Harris

There will be 500 different courses in the digital area on offer, with a particular focus on improving internet skills for vulnerable groups including the elderly, improving digital literacy and courses on how to use computers.

In addition, there will be courses for people in employment who need assistance on how to move their business online, or to improve their own skills.

Mr Harris said: “We will offer a variety of different courses in this area, from the most basic of skills to the most essential.

“For example, there are over 300 courses on offer to people over the age of 65 – who may have difficulty using Zoom, or buying their shopping online.”

He added: “We will also be asking people in employment to look at whether they need to upskill, or brush up on their skills. And for people who have businesses, we also have help on how to move your business online.

“Last year, over 40,000 people and 18,000 companies have enrolled and availed of online training. We will offer the same to businesses this year.”

Another area of focus will be climate action and the green economy. A new climate upskilling scheme is set to be rolled out this year.

Mr Harris is seeking to train mechanics in the area of electric vehicle repair.

“We have significant climate targets but we need to upskill our workforce to deal with them. We are opening four new centres of excellence for retrofitting in Limerick & Clare ETB, Mayo Sligo & Leitrim ETB, Cork ETB and Laois & Offaly ETB.

“But we must do more. Kerry ETB have incorporated training in electric vehicle repair and maintenance for all apprentices and offering courses in wind turbine maintenance. I want to see this expanded. In Laois/Offaly, Bord Na Mona employees are being offered courses in thermal insulation installation.”

Next week the Skills Minister will launch an online portal, a “one-stop shop” with information on how people can boost their skills.

It will offer guidance counselling, information on social welfare support and the range of options available.

It will also include a list of all courses available across the country.

Mr Harris said he is determined to make it easier to choose a course and know what is out there.

“There’s a lot out there and even sometimes as minister, I can be somewhat overwhelmed by the amount of courses and things that you can do,” he said.

“2021 can be a year of real change for people and we have to offer people every opportunity to learn something new and to prepare themselves for the future world of work.”

He added: “My message to anybody as we start 2021 would be that there is a course out there for you, there is training out there for you, there is an opportunity to upskill… just look around and find the one.”

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