Economy Minister Gordon Lyons today hailed the Skill Up initiative as he highlighted that applications are open for more than 7,000 free training courses for 2022/23.
Skill Up, supported by an investment of up to Pound 23million from the Department for the Economy and the Northern Ireland Office (NIO), is fully funding local further and higher education providers to deliver more than 20,000 training places in over 250 subject areas for accredited qualifications ranging from Level 1 to Level 7.
Funding through Skill Up enabled more than 7,500 people to benefit from courses in 2021/22, and applications are now open for more free courses in the forthcoming academic year.
The Minister, who announced the initiative in September last year, visited Queen's University Belfast with Minister of State for Northern Ireland Conor Burns to meet some of the students who availed of free training courses in year one of Skill Up.
Economy Minister Gordon Lyons said:
"I am delighted that Skill Up, supported by my Department and the NIO, has been so successful in its first year. More than 7,500 people took up places, at no cost to themselves, on courses available right across Northern Ireland through our universities and further education colleges.
"Around 7,000 places are now available to apply for in the coming academic year. Courses are primarily online, allowing for greater accessibility and choice for participants. I strongly encourage people who are looking to boost their skillset and, in turn, their employment and career chances, to check out the nidirect website for details of how to apply."
The Minister continued:
"Skill Up is one element of a wide range of skills and training funding that my Department put in place to help address the economic impact effects of the pandemic, with around 15,000 training places already funded since May 2020. Skill Up will run until the 2023/24 academic year, funding high quality training, in priority areas of need, that is directly applicable in the world of work.
"Building the local skills base is a key element of the recovery and future vision of the Northern Ireland economy as set out in our 10X Economic Vision for a decade of innovation.
"Check out what courses are available and apply now - it could change your career for the better!"
Minister of State for Northern Ireland Conor Burns said:
"The Government is committed to supporting and protecting the interests of people and businesses in Northern Ireland, helping to create jobs and continue to grow Northern Ireland's economy.
"We want to help people reach their potential with the Skill Up initiative, funded as part of the New Deal for Northern Ireland, giving more than 20,000 people the chance to build their skills and gain better employment.
"The programme, in partnership with the Northern Ireland Department for the Economy, will help to create a pipeline of talent and ensure that the people of Northern Ireland have the ability to shape their local economy as the Government continues its mission to level up across the UK.
"One of the primary responsibilities of the Government is to help people fulfil their full potential. This is a good example of that ambition in action."
Professor David Jones, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education and Students at Queen's University Belfast, said:
"Queen's is delighted to roll out the Skill Up programme at the university. Around 600 students have already completed the programme this year, with more to follow, and will now enter the workforce with extra skills as a result. Well done to them for all their hard work.
"Skill Up is designed to support skills development in those who may not otherwise get the opportunity, and the range of programmes from digital innovation and green technologies, to leadership programmes and biostatistics, means this opportunity is open to a variety of potential students to build their skills.
"This programme is in line with our commitment to support learning and skills in our local workforce, and to open education up to those who may struggle to access full-time courses, and we are delighted at the success to date."
Applications for all Skill Up courses are open now - full details are on nidirect