All posts by Paul Evan

About Paul Evan

University College Dublin, Ireland

UCD flexible third level education for unemployed in a time of economic crisis

On the 25th of May 2011, the Minister for Education and Skills in Ireland launched Springboard as part of the Government’s Jobs Initiative (Springboard, 2011). Springboard offered 5 875 free, part-time places in higher education in areas of identified skills need in Ireland. The various courses offered lead to awards at certificate, degree and post-graduate level. The target group for Springboard is unemployed people who have lost their jobs as a direct result of the global 2008 recession and who would benefit from up-skilling or cross-skilling to get back into sustainable employment. Springboard complements the core state-funded education and training system and is one of a number of special initiatives designed to support people transition back to employment. Computer Science plays a vital role in almost every business in today’s modern world. University College Dublin (UCD) has offered courses for the last two years under the Springboard programme (almost 1m euros of secured funding). These offerings included the first online and blended programmes of their kind in Ireland. The Graduate/University Certificates in Information and Communications Technology (ICT), which build on existing activity within the UCD School of Computer Science (UCD CSI) through negotiated learning, allow participants to work with the Programme Director to choose their own software programming modules. In doing so, they design their own certificate, focusing on software development training on a part-time, flexible and tailored to their needs model. This means that students can meet their own exact software development needs depending on the area they are coming from, up-skill or reskill in the area of software development in their own time, through distance learning and position themselves to seize future (and maybe alternative) career opportunities in applied ICT. So far we have had positive feedback from the ICT courses running in 2011 and 25% successful employment in the first year, while within the first 8 months of the 2012 courses 35% have found jobs already. The biopharmaceutical and Pharmachemical course, offered at postgraduate level in 2011 and 2012, aimed to provide an introduction to students with a background in science (either as part of their undergraduate degree, or during their previous working lives) to an employment area of current and projected future growth in Ireland. The course in UCD resulted from the collaboration between the schools of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Biomolecular and Biomedical Science and the School of Chemical and Bioprocess Engineering. Using an identical “negotiated” model to the ICT courses, on entry students selected, with consultation from the course director, their curriculum from a suite of suitable modules made available across the three collaborating schools. Feedback from students completing the course, just like the ICT counterpart, has been positive, however, successful (re-) integration of our graduates into the work place has been somewhat lower compared to ICT. In 2011/12 approximately 15% found work in an area directly related to the course and in 2012/13 this figure is currently 16%. This paper will present the rationale behind the structure of the courses, and how UCD as an academic Institution has addressed the needs of the market in ICT and Pharmaceuticals in a time of economic crisis.

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