Athlone IT Secures €3 Million in Funding for 742 Springboard+ and ICT Skills Places

Athlone Institute of Technology has been awarded €3 million in Springboard+ funding across 23 exciting, industry-focussed programmes ranging from level 6-9. In total, more than 742 places will be made available to prospective learners looking to upskill, change career or return to employment. Some of the programmes on offer include emerging technologies such as Blockchain, Augmented and Virtual Reality, Data Analysis and Visualisation, as well as Civil Engineering and Construction, Advanced Polymer Materials, Cybersecurity, Culinary Arts and Applied Laboratory Science.

According to Dr Michael Tobin, Dean of Faculty of Continuous, Online, Professional and Distance Learning, each nationally-accredited, flexible programme has been designed in response to the current and future needs of industry in the Midlands and presents a unique opportunity for learners to avail of free or heavily subsidised upskilling or reskilling. “Lifelong learning is crucial to being ‘job-fit’ in the modern workforce. As we move towards a digital economy, new technologies and opportunities are emerging which mandate that workers upskill to maintain the competitiveness of industry and business,” he said. “Our Springboard+ offering will furnish learners with the skills and competencies necessary to begin or advance their career in a wide array of sectors and enhance future career prospects.”

Springboard+ and ICT Skills programmes, which traditionally were only available to those on social welfare, are now also open to those currently in employment and those considering returning to employment after a prolonged period of absence, such as homemakers. To support learners, and in recognition of changing learner demographics, Springboard+ programmes are offered through a wide range of flexible and innovative learning routes designed to work around career and familial commitments.

Attending the national launch, Minister of State for Training, Skills Innovation, Research and Development John Halligan commented: “I am pleased to see that almost 90% of the courses provided under Springboard+ 2019 will be delivered in a more flexible format, which aligns with the continued opening-up of programmes to learners, irrespective of their employment status. As well as aiding participation for those in employment, increased provision will allow people from all across the country to access programmes in regions other than where they reside.”

Springboard+ and ICT Skills programmes are free for people who are unemployed, those who were previously self-employed and returners to the workforce. Programmes are also free for people in employment, on NFQ Level 6 programmes. For employed participants on programmes NFQ level 7 – 9, 90% of the course fee is funded by the Government, with participants required to contribute just 10% of the fee.

One of the key targets set out by Ireland’s National Skills Strategy 2025 includes an ambition to increase Ireland’s lifelong learning participation rate to 10% by 2020 and to 15% by 2025. The EU has also set a lifelong learning target of 15% by 2020.

“Springboard+ facilitates the continued growth and development of the Irish workforce, helping future-proof career prospects by keeping learners skills and knowledge up-to-date, which in turn boosts professional credibility and employability,” Seadna Ryan, Head of Department of Lifelong Learning, said, adding: “As the sole higher education institute in the Midlands, we are uniquely positioned to meet the current and future skills needs of industry and play an integral role supplying a talent pipeline of highly skilled, flexible workers - ultimately ensuring the continued growth and success of the region.”

Since 2011, more than €192m has been allocated to Springboard+, providing over 55,000 places. The Springboard+ programme is managed by the Higher Education Authority, on behalf of the Department of Education and Skills. The 9,151 places on offer under Springboard+ 2019 represents an investment of €34.3m from the National Training Fund with co-funding from the European Union under the European Social Fund, as part of the ESF Programme for Employability, Inclusion and Learning 2014-2020.

Full details of approved Springboard+ programmes are available at www.ait.ie or directly on www.springboardcourses.ie by selecting ‘Athlone Institute of Technology’ programmes. Athlone Institute of Technology’s Department of Lifelong Learning will be running a Springboard+ and ICT Skills clinic on June 12th, giving prospective applicants an opportunity to meet with academic staff and ask questions.

An educational powerhouse defined by a commitment to academic excellence, rigour and applied education, Athlone Institute of Technology has enjoyed considerable successes in the academic arena this year, most notably being named ‘best in class’ for research across the technological higher education sector. Further solidifying its reputational prowess, the institute was recently awarded ‘Best Academic Partnership’ at the prestigious national Education Awards for its part in developing SURE, Ireland’s first academic network dedicated to promoting undergraduate STEM research across the technological higher education sector. These accolades build upon the institute’s success in winning the Sunday Times Good University Guide ‘Institute of Technology of the Year’ award in 2018.

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