Survey results show almost half of population would like to retrain

Maura O'Shea

By Maura O'Shea

Posted: 1 September, 2021

Card reading

Almost half of the population would like to retrain to work in a more progressive and evolving sector. That’s according to the results of a survey, released today (01.09.21) by the Higher Education Authority (HEA), which examined people’s attitudes to work and upskilling.

According to the survey, more than one third of people (37%) feel that the Covid-19 pandemic has made them consider upskilling or reskilling. However, cost, time and confidence are barriers for people considering a change.

The Higher Education Authority provides free and subsidised higher education places every year under the Springboard+ and Human Capital Initiative (HCI) Pillar 1 initiatives.

The findings from the HEA’s survey also revealed the following:

· Almost half of people (45%) say that they would like the opportunity to retrain to work in a more progressive and evolving sector. This was particularly the case for those under the age of 50 and in the pre-family or family life stages categories.

· 43% said they were unlikely to consider a change in their career, due to the cost and time it might take them.

· One in three said they don’t have the confidence to think about applying for different work. The confidence deficit was most apparent between 25 and 50-year-olds, and was particularly characteristic of those who have been involved in a caring role in recent years, but who aspire to return to the workforce.

· 50% of people said the idea of working in new technology appeals very strongly to them.

· Over one quarter (27%) of people said that they worry that there is little future in what they do.

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, said Springboard+ and the graduate conversion courses under the Human Capital Initiative provide a targeted response to skills needs, enabling people to upskill and reskill in areas of critical importance which have come to the fore as a result of the pandemic.

“COVID-19 has clearly made many people examine whether they have all the skills they need to compete in what has been a volatile 18 months for the jobs market. Springboard+ is providing incredible opportunities for both the employed and the unemployed to upskill or reskill in areas such as climate sustainability, energy, health innovation and cyber security where employers are crying out for qualified staff,” he said.

Also commenting today (01.09.21), Vivienne Patterson Head of Skills, Engagement and Statistics at the HEA, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has had an unimaginable impact on our attitudes to work and our careers in general. It has forced many to reconsider the path they are on, and think about upskilling, reskilling or returning to the workforce. The results of the survey reflect this, while also showing that there are a number of common challenges for people when they are considering furthering their education – with one in three saying that they lack the confidence to reskill, and almost half of people noting cost and time as key challenges.

“Through our Springboard+ and HCI Pillar 1 courses we have tried to remove a lot of these barriers for people who may feel daunted by a return to education. All of the courses are free or subsidised and the majority of them also offer blended learning options – meaning the work can be done remotely, making it more accessible for people.

“The challenges presented by the pandemic are undeniable, however it has brought about great opportunities too. It’s clear from the survey findings that there is an appetite among people to work in ‘evolving’ sectors. Health innovation, logistics and online retail, for example, are key areas that have come to the fore during the pandemic, and are areas that are all covered under the Springboard+ and HCI Pillar 1 courses. We have also always tried to keep a focus on new and emerging technologies to ensure there is a talented workforce available with the right skills, required by employers.”

Taking charge of your career path

Kenneth Lyons has over 15 years’ experience working in the tourism and hospitality sector. When the pandemic hit in 2020, the industry and his business was greatly affected, and he was forced to consider alternative roles. Using his experience and knowledge of the tourism industry, he returned to education to upskill.

Kenneth undertook a Springboard+ Higher Diploma in Sustainability in Enterprise course at University College Cork (UCC). Commenting on his return to education, Kenneth said: “I likely wouldn’t have considered going back to education, if it wasn’t for the pandemic, but my studies will now play a key role in the development and new direction of my business.

“Before taking on the course, and before Covid, I would have always thought that I was too busy, and didn’t have the time to consider going back to education. The course I completed can be taken on while you are still in employment, which is a bonus, but can be a challenge at times. For my classmates who were working fulltime or who had kids, it was a huge undertaking, but very rewarding. It helped that the course was completely online too, making it very accessible.

“My goal is to return to the travel and hospitality industry with a sustainability focus. There are a lot of businesses within the industry who know something needs to be done in this area, but they don’t know where to start. They may not have the resources to hire an on-site team to look after sustainability, so that’s where I can come in and support them and get them up-and-running.”

“Having done the programme, I think upskilling in general, regardless of whether we’re in a pandemic or not, is always a good thing.”


For more information, contact: Emma Walsh / Ciara Murphy, Alice PR & Events; Email: Tel: 083-3839791 / 087-9626231

Notes to Editors:

Vivienne Patterson Head of Skills, Engagement and Statistics at the HEA is available for interview.


Springboard+ was introduced in 2011 as part of the Government’s Jobs Initiatives, is managed by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) on behalf of the Department of Education and Skills. Springboard+ promotes employment via free and subsidised higher education courses for people in employment, the unemployed / formerly self-employed, and people returning to work and education after taken time away to raise their families or care for loved ones. 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. The initiative provides a pipeline of job-ready graduates with skills for growing areas of enterprise in Ireland.


Human Capital Initiative

The Human Capital Initiative (HCI) was announced as part of Budget 2019. The initiative provides additional capacity across the Higher Education Sector to meet priority skill needs for enterprise. HCI Pillar 1, Graduate Conversion Programmes extends the approach currently in place for ICT under Springboard+. These programmes 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. 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+.


Further information from the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science on Springboard+ and HCI Pillar 1 is available here. For more information on both programmes, visit Follow Springboard+ on Facebook and Twitter. #SkillsThatWork

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