New Education Information Guide helps adults to get on course
Significant reforms in the further education and training sector should not affect adults accessing education and training, according to Berni Brady, Director of AONTAS, the National Adult Learning Organisation.
AONTAS has just published the latest edition of ‘What Next’ – an Information Guide for adults thinking of returning to education. The guide contains the most up to date information about education and training opportunities around the country, details on finance and funding, useful contacts and services.
The number of adults in education continues to rise, with well over 300,000 adults opting for a short course for pleasure, or investing in a longer term qualification to improve their employment prospects. ‘The range of new initiatives such as Springboard adds to the choice available to adult learners, especially those looking for flexible, part time options, ‘said Ms Brady. However, there has been a slight decrease in the number of adults returning to full time third level education. ‘This may be due to the availability of other options such as Springboard which is currently offering 6,000 free part time third level education places to adults’ said Ms Brady. ‘Furthermore, people contacting us indicate that finance is as big an issue for adults considering third level education as it is for school-leavers’ said Ms Brady. Numbers accessing the Back to Education Allowance, which allows adults to retain their Social Welfare payments while they complete second level or third level education increased again this year – from 24,999 in April 2012 to 27,830 in April 2013.
The pace of reform underway in further education and training continues, so that the sector can rise to the challenge of unemployment. ‘There are three structural developments of significance to the sector, said Ms Brady. On July 1st, the Education and Training Boards opened their doors to the public, replacing the former VECs. Later this year, SOLAS, the new Further Education and Training Authority will be established. The Department of Social Protection has also been rolling out new Intreo services in social welfare offices around the country which will offer job seekers with information and advice about education and training. These changes combined should help the services provide a greater response to the education and training needs of people who are unemployed, and in the long term should result in better services and outcomes for adult learners’ concluded Ms Brady.
Any adult thinking about returning to education who wants to consider their options should contact AONTAS for a free copy of ‘What Next’. AONTAS has also set up a Freephone Helpline with support from the EU Lifelong Learning Programme. Contact 1800 303 669 with your query.