Education News

Significant Shift in How Further Education and Training Sector is Funded

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris has announced plans to move to an outcome-based funding model for further education and training (FET). This move is based on the recommendations of a review from an independent expert panel.

The publication of the report and the announcement mark a milestone moment in the development of the FET system in Ireland.

Speaking, Minister Harris said, “this is a watershed moment for the FET sector, where the long-held ambition for a more flexible and outcome-based funding model for ETBs has been made a reality. I’d like to thank all the people who made this possible, for their commitment and hard work in getting us to this welcome stage. One of the many insightful points made in this report was the importance of FET not just as an education and training offering, but as a key component of Irish society. FET is unique because it is about diverse pathways into and within our communities, and plays a role in unlocking potential and growth across many different aspects of our society.”

“We want to get the message out there that FET has a critical role to play in developing the economy and skills of people in Ireland, across the board from apprenticeship, post Leaving Certificate courses, to literacy supports and everything that falls between in a dynamic and exciting system. The move to a simplified funding model will enable and empower ETBs to harness what is so special and valuable about FET and expand it to meet the future skills needs of Ireland and its people.”

The announcement is the product of extensive consultation by this independent expert panel over the last number of years, with close engagement with the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science (DFHERIS), SOLAS, the ETBs, and other key stakeholders including industry, staff and learner representatives.

The FET and ETB system has developed significantly in recent years. ETBs have established structures, built up capabilities and adopted a more strategic response to meeting current and evolving skills needs.

This simplified “five pot” funding model will facilitate transparent, inclusive and modern FET provision into the future to continue and expand upon what has already been achieved.

This new, simpler 5-pot model focuses on providing core funding, to allow each ETB effectively and strategically deliver FET that meets the needs of their regions.

One pot will make sure resources go into key areas like:

  • Quality assurance
  • Enterprise engagement
  • Consistent learner support
  • Agile programme development
  • Data analysis

The other 4 pots will drive provision, including:

  • One dedicated to supporting apprenticeship delivery
  • FET pathways to equip learners with employable skills and wraparound supports
  • Funding designed around employment and higher education transition
  • New discretionary funding pot for competitive funding calls, which will respond to Government initiatives and reward high-performing ETBs

Andrew Brownlee, CEO of SOLAS, said, “this is a stand-out day for FET. This new funding approach will allow for the investment in critical capabilities that will enable transformation in areas like learner support, digitalisation, quality assurance, agile course development and capital infrastructure.”

“It will drive innovation and growth in FET provision and facilitate the harmonisation of FET programmes. It will ensure fairness and transparency in how FET is funded, and more clearly link to the learner outcomes generated by ETBs. In addition, the funding model will also recognise the individual characteristics and challenges faced by ETBs. I am excited to see where this funding model can take the FET sector. The future is bright for FET. I’d like to thank Ken Rutherford, Fiona Hartley O’Connor, and Ted Owens of the independent expert panel for their incredible commitment and insight in leading this process and the clear direction they’ve set out.”

Work is underway to form an implementation group to drive delivery of the new funding model, with representatives from DFHERIS, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, SOLAS, the ETBs and learner, staff and employer representatives. The independent expert panel produced a report on the FET funding model .

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