Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme


If you are over 21 years of age, are unemployed and have been getting certain social welfare payments for at least 6 months you can apply for the Vocational Training and Opportunities Scheme (VTOS). This scheme provides a range of courses to meet the education and training needs of unemployed people. It gives participants opportunities to improve their general level of education, gain certification, develop their skills and prepare for employment, self-employment and further education and training.

VTOS is operated through local Education and Training Boards and is aimed in particular at unemployed people who are early school-leavers.

What kinds of courses are available?

The courses range from basic education and training to advanced vocational training and there is a wide choice of subjects. The courses are full-time, about 30 hours a week (for example, 6 hours a day for 5 days) and can last up to 2 years. Many courses lead to qualifications such as the Junior Certificate, Leaving Certificate and awards at Levels 3, 4, 5 and 6 on the National Framework of Qualifications. You can find a list of VTOS courses on the Qualifax website.


You may qualify for VTOS if you are aged 21 years or over and you are:

Periods spent on FET training courses, Community Employment Schemes, Job Initiative, Youthreach programmes and time in prison can count towards the qualifying period.

* If you are claiming Illness Benefit, you should contact your local social welfare office about exemption/entitlement to continuation of your Illness Benefit payment.


For people getting jobseeker's payments

In general, VTOS participants who move from jobseeker's payments receive a VTOS training allowance at the same rate as their jobseeker's payment.

However, VTOS participants under 25 who move from an age-related reduced rate of Jobseeker’s Allowance will get a maximum VTOS training allowance rate of €208 per week. Any means participants have will be deducted from this rate.

Generally, your entitlement to a VTOS training allowance will not be reassessed if there is a change to your circumstances (including means).

VTOS training allowance and work: If you are returning to your course for a second year, you will continue to get your VTOS allowance during the summer months. You can also take up full-time work during the summer months and your VTOS payment is not affected.

VTOS training allowance and dependants: If you want a dependent adult or child added to your payment you must notify the Department of Social Protection (DSP). DSP will then notify the ETB of any changes to your VTOS training allowance.

Other supports

People on Post-Leaving Certificate courses (PLCs) who are getting VTOS allowances are not eligible for student support grants. However, this does not affect any entitlement they may have to exemption from college fees or student contributions.

There are no fees for VTOS courses and you will get free books and materials at the start of the course. Depending on your individual circumstances you may be eligible for the following:

More detailed information about VTOS is available on the DEASP's website.

VTOS training allowances are not taxable.

How to apply

You can participate in the VTOS scheme in one of the following ways; you can be either:

  • A core VTOS student - that is, attending a VTOS centre or adult education centre or
  • A dispersed VTOS student, usually attending a Post-Leaving Certificate course in a further education college.

There is a list of frequently asked questions about VTOS on the Qualifax website.
Contact the VTOS co-ordinator at your local VTOS centre to find out more about the VTOS courses available.

Page edited: 6 January 2022