Minister Harris announces €225 million in investment for further and higher education and research in National Recovery and Resilience Plan

June 1, 2021

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD has today (Tuesday) outlined a €225 million investment for further and higher education and research under the Government’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan.

The €225 million investment will include:

  • A significant skills package for upskilling and reskilling aimed at equipping workers whose jobs are unlikely to return, including a focus on digital skills transition and a new Green Skills Action programme;
  • €40 million investment in the Transformation Fund for Technological Universities (TUs) to drive reforms in regional skills development and enterprise engagement, digital infrastructure and support staff development;
  • €71.6  million investment in a research and innovation National Grand Challenges Programme which will focus on the need for a transition to a climate neutral and clean economy as well as the challenges of digital transition.

Speaking today, Minister Harris said: “The pandemic has disrupted economies worldwide and altered work mobility. While the future world of work is still uncertain,  it is clear that COVID-19 has accelerated us towards a digitally dominated economy.

“Our education, research and innovation systems will therefore become even more important.  To keep pace with future change and to ensure people can return to sustainable jobs, a higher and further education model centred on apprenticeships, transferrable skills and flexible education responding to evolving skills needs, and lifelong learning is required.

“This package announced by Government today will help us respond to these immediate challenges, while preparing for the challenges of future. The new National Grand Challenges Programme in research will see mission-oriented challenges used to incentivise researchers to deliver tangible impact for society in areas such as health, agriculture and climate.”

As part of the Skills package, there will be an expansion of the Skills to Compete programme. This programme will be aimed at people who have lost their job as a result of the pandemic, where their jobs are unlikely to return.

The aim of the programme will be to equip them with digital skills and to reskill them in areas of growth with immediate employment opportunities such as ICT programming, software development, web developers, healthcare assistants, special needs assistants or logistics.

In addition, a new Green Skills Action programme will be developed and will include a skills focus on areas such of NZEB, retrofitting  and specific skills for bricklaying, carpentry, electrics, plastering and plumbing.

Opportunities for modular training in the area of green skills will be made available to 60,000 Further Education and Training learners.

The TU Transformation Fund, which will be administered by the Higher Education Authority,  will accelerate the stated plans and mission of TU Dublin, Munster Technological University; AIT-LIT Consortium; Connacht-Ulster Alliance and the Technological University for the South East.

This funding will support TUs to reform academic programme provision, including re-defining student pathways and graduate outcomes as a response to local, regional and national needs post-pandemic.

The activities that will be supported will include TUs and TU staff learning from the recent online education experience to look at new and flexible ways to respond to students and regional skills needs. It will see TUs offering enhanced learner access and TUs working to develop greater digital connectivity between TUs, staff, students and the society and enterprise in the regions in which they live, work and learn.

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