22 June, 2009 - 2,500 new third-level places to target jobless workers - Minister O'Keeffe

'Part-time courses aimed at preparing workforce for jobs in sectors key to tackling recession' - Minister
Unemployed workers will have access to 2,500 new places on part-time undergraduate and postgraduate courses from September as part of the Government's efforts to retrain and upskill the labour force, according to the Minister for Education and Science, Batt O'Keeffe TD.
Announcing the issue of calls for proposals by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) for these places today, Minister O'Keeffe said: 'The third-level sector has a critical role to play in helping unemployed workers develop the type of skills they need to get back into the labour force.
'Of the 2,500 new part-time places that will come on stream in September, 1,500 of them will be on a range of undergraduate certificate and degree-level programmes and the rest will be available for unemployed graduates to undertake part-time postgraduate diplomas or conversion programmes.
'The initiative is specifically aimed at upskilling and reskilling people for jobs in the sectors of the economy considered key to tackling the recession and driving economic growth.
'All 2,500 places will be on courses that support the goals of the Government's "smart economy" plan and particularly those relating to specific skills needs of exporting sectors identified by the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs.
'These include sectors such as medical devices, biopharmaceuticals, international financial services, the food sector and others.
'Part-time courses, which will be of varying duration, are more suited to the circumstances of workers who are unemployed and want to be able to re-enter the labour force as soon as possible,' said Minister O'Keeffe. 
Workers must be unemployed for at least six months on 1 September 2009 to be eligible for a place on the undergraduate or postgraduate programmes.
In the coming weeks, Minister O'Keeffe will announce details of the third-level institutions providing these places and how to apply for a place.
This information will also be made available through local FÁS and Department of Social and Family Affairs offices.
'I've also asked the HEA to submit to me in the coming weeks the report of the Higher Education Labour Market Response Group which is examining the scope to develop further responses by the third-level sector to support the upskilling and reskilling of unemployed workers,' said Minister O'Keeffe.
Funding from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment is supporting the 1,500 part-time undergraduate places.

The 1,000 postgraduate places will be funded by the HEA.
Tuition fees will not be charged for these undergraduate and postgraduate courses though postgraduate students may be required to pay a nominal charge.