If you are over 21 years of age, 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). The VTOS scheme provides a wide 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 your local ETB (Education and Training Board) website. Find your local ETB at www.etbi.ie.
You may qualify for the VTOS scheme if you are aged 21 years or over and you are:
- Getting, Jobseeker’s Benefit or Jobseeker’s Allowance or signing for credits for at least 6 months or
- Getting One-Parent Family Payment, Disability Allowance, Illness Benefit* or Invalidity Pension for at least 6 months or
- Getting Blind Pension, Deserted Wife’s Allowance/Benefit, Widow’s, Widower’s or Surviving Civil Partner’s Contributory Pension, Widow’s, Widower’s or Surviving Civil Partner’s Non-Contributory Pension or Prisoner’s Wife’s Allowance for at least 6 months (conditions may apply in the case of these payments) or
- A dependent spouse, civil partner or cohabitant of an eligible person
- A person who received statutory redundancy but who has not been in receipt of a qualifying payment for the required period.
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.
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:
- Meal allowance
- Travel allowance
- Free childcare place for children under the Childcare Employment and Training Support (CETS) scheme,
- A training bonus payment, if you have been getting an eligible social welfare payment for at least 12 months before starting the VTOS scheme. It was announced in Budget 2014, from 1 January 2014, the €20 bonus payment to long-term unemployed VTOS participants will end. This only applies to new participants.
More detailed information about the rates of payment for VTOS participants is on the Department of Social Protection website.
How to apply
Students can participate in a chosen VTOS course as one of the following;
- A core VTOS student 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.
Contact the VTOS co-ordinator at your local ETB centre to find out more about the VTOS courses available.
Reproduced under licence from ©Citizensinformation.ie