Springboard+ provides free higher education courses for people who are unemployed and those looking to return to the workforce. You can also apply for a Springboard+ course if you are working, but you must pay a 10% contribution towards the course fee.
There is a range of part-time courses from certificate to master's degree levels - levels 6 to 9 on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ). Most of the courses are part-time and last for one year or less, but there is an increasing number of full-time courses.
Courses are offered in a range of areas including information and communications technology (ICT), construction, hospitality, medical device technology, cybersecurity, sustainable energy, business start-up and international financial services.
The 2020 programme will focus on providing relevant skills for those affected by the COVID-19 public health emergency. Courses will mostly be delivered by blended learning - mixing online and in-class learning or online and distance learning.
Most courses will be part-time for one year. However, some courses will be for up to 2 years.
Since 25 June 2020, Springboard+ courses are open for applications - see ‘How to apply’ below.
If Springboard+ doesn’t meet your needs, there are several other ways to go back to education.
Who is eligible?
To qualify for a free Springboard+ course you must be unemployed, be actively seeking work and available to take up work.
If you are employed, you must pay a 10% contribution towards the course fee at level 7, 8 and 9 on the NFQ. However, level 6 courses are free. If you are getting Revenue’s Temporary COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme, you are classed as employed.
There are also residency criteria for participants not getting a social welfare payment.
Generally there are no age restrictions unless you are a qualified adult on someone else’s social welfare payment. However, you must meet the eligibility criteria for both Springboard+ and your chosen course.
At the time of starting a Springboard+ course, you must either be getting a qualifying social welfare payment or be in one of the other eligible categories listed below.
Social welfare payments:
- Jobseeker’s Benefit
- Jobseeker’s Allowance
- One-Parent Family Payment
- Disability Allowance
- Carer’s Allowance
- Farm Assist/Fish Assist
- Widow's, Widower's or Surviving Civil Partner's (Contributory) Pension
- Widow's, Widower's or Surviving Civil Partner’s (Non-Contributory) Pension
- Blind Pension
- Deserted Wife’s Allowance.
If you are getting the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment you can apply for a free Springboard+ part-time course. However, before you complete your first registration for your course, you should contact your local Intreo Office to find out if you will qualify for a social welfare payment during the course.
You can also apply for Springboard+ if:
- You are a qualified adult of working age (under 66) on someone else’s social welfare payment
- You are signing for social insurance credits
Employment support schemes
You are also eligible for Springboard+ (with approval from a Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection case officer) if you are on one of the following schemes or payments:
- Community Employment
- Rural Social Scheme
- Back to Work Enterprise Allowance
- Short-Term Enterprise Allowance.
ICT skills conversion courses
A person who is getting Jobseekers Benefit or Jobseekers Allowance for at least 9 of the previous 12 months may get a Back to Education Allowance while participating on a one-year, full-time ICT skills conversion course.
You are not eligible for a 2-year part-time ICT conversion courses if you are getting a jobseeker’s payment (including Farm Assist) or you are a qualified adult of working age on someone else’s social welfare payment.
If you are getting COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment you will be required to pay 10% of the course fee to the course provider. If you are unemployed at the point of registration the 10% course fee will be refunded to you. However, you cannot get the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment and continue with the course.
You are eligible for Springboard+, if you have been out of the work environment due to childcare or other caring obligations and require upskilling or reskilling to get back to the workforce.
To qualify you must meet the residency criteria and one of the following requirements:
- You are on home or other caring duties for 9 of the previous 12 months or
- You are economically dependent on a partner or spouse and have been unemployed for 9 of the previous 12 months
You must provide supporting documentation and swear a declaration before a Commissioner for Oaths about your status.
You are eligible for Springboard+, if you were formerly self-employed but are now unemployed and actively seeking work. You don’t need to be getting a social welfare payment.
You must meet the residency criteria and provide a letter or statement from Revenue stating that you are no longer trading (or a similar letter from your former accountant).
One-year full-time and 2-year part-time ICT skills conversion courses are open to recent graduates. However, to participate on a NFQ level 9 (post-graduate) course, a period of at least one year must have elapsed since completing a full-time undergraduate degree course leading to a major award at level 8 on the NFQ.
You do not have to pay any course fees or charges while you are unemployed.
If you take up a Springboard+ course, you can keep your existing social welfare payment if you continue to fulfil the conditions for the payment. If you have started a course and lose your qualifying social welfare payment you can continue on your course.
If you are getting a jobseeker’s payment and participating on a part-time Springboard+ course, you will continue to get your jobseeker’s payment under the Part-Time Education Option (PTEO). If you are on a full-time course you may have the option to transfer to a Back to Education Allowance (BTEA).
If you take up a job while on a course, Springboard+ will fund the fees for the full academic year. If your course extends into another academic year(s) the amount of fees payable will be a matter for your college to decide.
If you are employed, you must pay a 10% contribution towards the course fee at level 7, 8 and 9 on the NFQ. However, level 6 courses are free.
How to apply
If you are getting a social welfare payment, you should notify your Intreo Centre or local Social Welfare Branch Office and check what further steps (if any) you need to take.