Thousands of higher education places available for people reskilling

Springboard+ offers 392 free, part-time conversion courses in higher education

Springboard+ is a scheme that aims to reskill people in areas where skilled job opportunities are growing.

It provides free higher-education courses for people who are unemployed and for those looking to return to the workforce. Individuals who are working can also apply for a Springboard course, but if they are accepted onto a course, they must pay a 10 per cent contribution towards the fee.

The programme, which is co-funded by the Irish Government and the European Social Fund, has provided more than 35,000 people with a new skill set, specifically tailored to the needs of today’s market.

The courses are in growing industries such as information and communications technology; high-level manufacturing; medical devices; biopharma; international financial services; skills to trade internationally; entrepreneurship and business start-up; and niche skills in the construction industry.


Springboard qualifications are also available in cross-enterprise skills such as innovation, enterprise/entrepreneurship, digital marketing and project management.

The current Springboard+ programme offers a choice of 392 free, part-time, and intensive conversion courses in higher education through 35 providers.

The courses, which range from certificate and degree to postgraduate level, are mostly part time, but there are also some full-time courses such as the ICT conversion courses.

There are 12,940 free places available throughout the country. Most courses are one year or less; however, some can take up to two years to complete.

The majority of programmes are run on a “blended learning” basis, meaning there is a mixture of on and off campus, online and/or distance learning courses. However, the one-year ICT conversion courses are “intensive” and participants may be required to commit to essentially full-time study for one year.

Some of the Springboard courses available under the programme include a postgraduate diploma in cybersecurity at the National College of Ireland, a diploma in critical business skills at NUI Galway and a certificate in web application development at TUD.

Some of the ICT conversion courses available under the programme include a higher diploma in computer science at Waterford IT, a higher diploma in science in agile software design at Athlone Institute of Technology and a higher diploma in science in cloud computing at Cork Institute of Technology.

Who is eligible?

All participants must be residents in the State at the time of the commencement of the course and must hold a valid PPSN.

Unemployed applicants must be in receipt of an "eligible payment" from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection or be signing for social insurance contribution credits or be previously self-employed in Ireland and actively looking for work.

Eligible payments include jobseekers’ benefit; jobseekers’ allowance; one-parent family; disability allowance; qualified adults of working age; carers allowance; farm assist/fish assist; widow’s, widower’s or surviving civil partner’s contributory or non-contributory pension; blind pension or deserted wives’ allowance.

Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) recipients may be eligible for Springboard part-time courses, which are for less than one year in duration.

Returners, which are people who are not in receipt of a payment from the department but who have been out of the work environment for a number of years due to childcare or other caring obligations, may also be eligible for the courses.

These applicants must have been a homemaker or on other caring duties for a minimum of nine of the previous 12 months prior to their application and must have been ordinarily resident in an EU/EEA/UK/Switzerland for at least three of the five years preceding their entry to the programme.

Recent Level 8 graduates must wait a year from graduation before they are eligible to do a Level 9 Springboard course. However, recent graduates may be eligible for ICT Skills Conversion or a HCI Pillar 1 course.

Former Springboard participants may apply to do a second Springboard course if they still come under the eligibility criteria, but the course must not take place in the same academic year, and first preference will be given to those who are applying to the programme for the first time.

Former Springboard participants who did not complete their original course, however, are not eligible to reapply for a second course.

Before applying for a Springboard course, you must register at and create a personal account. Once the account is set up, prospective applicants can browse the available courses – the details of which are all on the website – and apply to up to 10 courses.

Applicants will then be able to monitor the status of their application on their personal account, which will be updated to reflect whether the application was successful or unsuccessful.

Human Capital Initiative

In June 2020 the government introduced a Human Capital Initiative Pillar 1 programme, which seeks to deliver an investment targeted towards increasing capacity in higher education in skills-focused programmes, in order to meet priority skills needs.

Some €300 million has been allocated for the initiative from the surplus in the National Training Fund – an employers' levy aimed at supporting the training of those in employment – in line with recommendations contained in the independent review of the fund on the use of the surplus and the development of labour market skills.

Under the programme, higher education institutions were invited to submit applications for funding under the Human Capital Initiative call for proposals for graduate conversion.

This initiative offers 5,994 places on 99 graduate conversion courses through 27 providers over three years. These courses are full time and take place over 12-18 months, leading to both level 8 and 9 awards.

Places are available in artificial intelligence, smart factory technology, sustainable energy, medical device technology and cybersecurity.

Some of the specific courses on offer include a graduate diploma in web technologies at Dublin City University, a graduate diploma in design thinking for sustainability at University College Dublin and a higher diploma in environmental science at the University of Limerick.

In addition a significant number of the Pillar 1 graduate conversion courses contain an element of work placement.

How to apply

To apply for a Human Capital Initiative course, unemployed applicants must be in receipt of an eligible payment for nine of the previous 12 months. Applicants must also inform their local Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection office that they are undertaking a Pillar 1 graduate conversion course.

To be eligible for a place on a Level 8 or 9 Pillar 1 graduate conversion course, applicants must have a major award at level 8 on the National Framework of Qualifications or recognised prior learning equivalent to Level 8.

Individuals who graduated with a Level 8 qualification in a relevant subject in the previous 12 months are also eligible to apply for a Level 9 Pillar 1 graduate conversion course but will be required to pay 10 per cent of the tuition fee.

The formerly self-employed not in receipt of a department payment must also pay 10 per cent, which is payable directly to the provider. There are no tuition fees for Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection customers or returners.

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers is Health Correspondent of The Irish Times