Government launches 17,000 free and subsidised higher education places on Springboard+ 2020 and Human Capital Initiative (HCI) Pillar 1 

Government of Ireland logoMaura O'Shea

By Maura O'Shea

Posted: 17 June, 2020

Springboard logo

Announcement includes an additional 2,129 places for upskilling and reskilling  

The Minister for Education and Skills Joe McHugh TD, Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor and Minister of State for Training Skills, Innovation, Research and Development John Halligan today announced almost 17,000 new places to be made available to people seeking to upskill or reskill. 

13,000 places will commence in 2020, with the additional 4,000 places coming on stream over the remaining 2 years. 

This includes an additional 2,129 places on both programmes, as a result of investment by the Government of an additional €10 m in response to the Covid-19 pandemic:  

  • 11,074 places on 332 courses under Springboard+ 2020   
  • 5,891 places on 93 courses over three years for Human Capital Initiative (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.  

This additional funding, combined with the new HCI Pillar 1 courses leads to 7,600 more places available over three years to those who wish to upskill or reskill compared with 2019.  

The National Training Fund Advisory Group has considered the principles and priorities of the National Training Fund (NTF) in light of the transformed economic and labour market landscape arising from COVID-19. These priorities were confirmed by the National Skills Council. Among these principles were: 

  • the need for an immediate focus on providing relevant skills for those affected by the crisis underpinning their employability and access into sustainable and quality employment; 
  • the need for focused and agile programmes consistent with the current priorities for skills provision.  

Springboard+ has already experienced successful outcomes in these areas. To enable a skills-focused response to employment issues arising from the Covid-19 crisis, €10 million has been repurposed from HCI Pillar 3 to provide extra funding for upskilling and reskilling courses under Springboard+ and HCI Pillar 1. 

Minister McHugh said: “Springboard+ training programmes provide people who are unemployed, those looking to return to the workforce and those in employment with a great opportunity to upskill or reskill in areas in which employers need skilled workers. I am particularly pleased that we are able to provide additional places this year to enable an enhanced response to skills needs arising from the Covid-19 pandemic.  

Minister Mitchell O’Connor saidThe higher education sector has responded swiftly and effectively to the challenges that have arisen over recent months. The courses we are launching today will form a further response to the impacts of the global pandemic, providing upskilling and reskilling places for those who have been most affected. HCI Pillar 1 will provide specialisation and conversion courses for graduates to ensure that they have the skills most needed by employers today.”  

Minister Halligan said: “I am particularly pleased to see that over 90 per cent of the courses provided under Springboard+ 2020 will be delivered in a more flexible format, this will enable upskilling and reskilling even in circumstances where social distancing measures continue to be in place.” 

Approval is being given for courses under HCI Pillar 1 to run for three academic years from 2020/21 to 2022/23. Courses are in specific areas of skills need, as identified by the Skills Identification Group as part of the HCI call development process. 

  • 2,039 places will be funded on 79 courses in 2020/21 
  • 1,900 places will be funded in each of 2021/22 and 2022/23. 

HCI Pillar 1 courses will be delivered in all of the universities, 10 institutes of technology, and nine privately-run colleges. 

Springboard+ 2020 and HCI Pillar 1 represent an investment of €57.62m in the 2020/21 academic year 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. A further €52.48m will be provided for HCI pillar 1 in subsequent years.   

All courses under Springboard+ and HCI Pillar 1 were selected by an independent panel with experts from industry and education following a competitive tendering process. Courses are in areas that have been deemed by Government as being of critical importance: digital skills, soft skills, management and leadership, and the workplace of the future. Many courses focus on future proofing the skills of those in employment, particularly in roles that may be impacted by digitalisation.  

Candidates who wish to participate in Springboard+ 2020 or HCI pillar 1 courses will find full details on the approved courses on the dedicated information and applications website   


Note for Editors 

Background to Springboard+ 

Springboard+, which is managed by the Higher Education Authority on behalf of the Department of Education and Skills, began in 2011 as part of the Government’s Jobs Initiative. It complements the core State-funded education and training system and provides free and heavily subsidised upskilling and reskilling higher education opportunities in areas of identified skills need. The initiative’s primary target group when it was established was unemployed people with a previous history of employment. Over recent years with the decline in numbers on the live register the focus was changed to include more people in employment and those returning to the workforce. 

ICT skills Conversion Courses were introduced in 2012 as a means to address concerns by industry and the enterprise development agencies about continuing difficulties in sourcing ICT graduates with requisite skills.  

Springboard+ courses are at Level 6 (Certificate) to Level 9 (Masters) on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) and are delivered by public and private higher education providers around the country. Courses are not all a full award at each level – they may also be minor awards or special purposes awards. All courses provide job-readiness training and most offer the opportunity for work placement, project-based learning or industry site visits where appropriate. 

All courses approved for funding under Springboard+ are selected by an independent panel with experts from industry and education following a competitive tendering process.  In particular, courses with a proven track record in getting people back into employment are recommended for funding.  

The majority of courses approved under Springboard+ 2020 commence in autumn 2020, however there are a number of courses that start later in 2020 and in early 2021. Full details on Springboard+ courses, the eligibility criteria and how to apply can be found on the website:  

91% of Springboard+ courses will be delivered in a more flexible format (blended learning, online/distance learning). As well as aiding participation for those in employment, increased provision will provide opportunities for people across the country to access programmes in regions other than where they reside and enable upskilling and reskilling even in circumstances where social distancing measures continue to be in place.  

Recent research undertaken by the HEA has shown that 90% of participants who were on the Live Register at the start of their courses are now in employment.    

Background to HCI 

The Human Capital Initiative (HCI) was announced as part of Budget 2019. This initiative will provide additional capacity across the Higher Education Sector to meet priority skill needs for enterprise, representing an additional investment of €300m (€60m per annum from 2020 to 2024) from the surplus in the NTF in line with recommendations contained in the independent review of the NTF on the use of the surplus and the development of labour market skills.  

Skills needs are identified through the detailed and comprehensive framework now in place under the National Skills Council, including  publications from the Skills and Labour Market Research Unit (SLMRU), the work of the Regional Skills Fora, the NTF Advisory Group, and the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs, and direct involvement of employers.  

The HCI consists of 3 main pillars  graduate conversion and specialisation courses, additional places on undergraduate provision, and an innovation and agility fund.  

Pillar 1, Graduate Conversion Programmes extends the approach currently in place for ICT under Springboard+; these programmes will offer incentivised places for graduates to reskill in areas of skills shortage and emerging technologies. These are being run alongside, and complementary to, the Springboard+ offerings.  

€65.6 million has been allocated to HCI Pillar 1 for the duration of the Human Capital Initiative, with €13.12 million allocated for the courses recommended to commence in 2020.  

HCI Pillar 1 courses are open to all, regardless of employment status. Eligibility criteria have been aligned with the eligibility for ICT Conversion Courses under Springboard+. Those who are eligible for the DEASP Back to Education Allowance may undertake the courses free of charge, with all others paying just 10% of the course fee.  


Additional funding 

Additional funding of €10m has been approved as a response to upskilling and reskilling needs arising from the global pandemic. This provides for a total of 2,129 additional places across both programme, a 19% increase on planned funding.  


Courses and Places by Academic Category – Springboard+ 

Academic category  Total Places  
ICT Skills Conversion (Level 8)   
1 year Full-time  532 
2 Years Part-time  769 
SPRINGBOARD (part-time)   
Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries and Veterinary  50 
Arts and Humanities  225 
Business, Administration and Law  2,747 
Engineering, Manufacturing and Construction  3,388 
Generic programmes and qualifications  258 
Health and Welfare  201 
Information and Communication Technologies  2,103 
Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Statistics  347 
Services  379 
Social Sciences, Journalism and Information  75 
Total  11,074 




Courses and Places by Academic Category – HCI Pillar 1 over 3 years 

Academic category  Total Places Recommended 
Arts and Humanities  70 
Business, Administration and Law  690 
Engineering, Manufacturing and Construction  1,292 
Health and Welfare  212 
Information and Communication Technologies  2,561 
Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Statistics  1,066 
Total  5,891 



More: Springboard+

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