Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, John Halligan TD, speaking at a budget press conference at Government Buildings today, announced a major investment package from the National Training Fund (NTF) in skills development.
The increased expenditure from the NTF will support a significant increase in workplace and employer-led training through apprenticeship and the Skillnet Ireland programme. The investment will also focus on lower-skilled employees and companies seeking assistance from education and training boards (ETBs) to build workplace skills through the Skills to Advance programme. This is in addition to NTF support for mainstream skills-focused higher education and further education and training and the new €60 million Human Capital Initiative.
This investment in skills development aims to assist companies and workers to deal with Brexit uncertainty, support small and medium enterprises and grow labour market participation. It will support people to develop their skills at various points in their lives, delivering the flexible and adaptable workforce needed to be successful in workplaces being transformed by digitalisation, automation and the transition to a low carbon economy.
Minister Halligan said:
The increase in the National Training Fund levy of a further 0.1% allows for continued additional investment in training and upskilling, both for those in the workforce and for those preparing for employment. In 2020, the National Training Fund will support a further expansion of the apprenticeship programme with over 7,500 new registrations on craft and new apprenticeships. An additional €8 million will support 7,000 additional participants on Skillnet Ireland programmes including a new digital skills initiative and an SME upskilling scheme. The ETB Skills to Advance programme will be supported with an additional €6 million to allow for the upskilling of an additional 3,000 people in the workforce.
Minister Halligan said:
The National Training Fund (NTF) was established by the National Training Fund Act, 2000, as a dedicated fund to support the training of those in employment, and those seeking employment. The Act also provides for the funding of research to provide information on existing and likely future skills requirements of the economy.
The creation of the fund was announced in Budget 2000 by the then Minister for Finance to raise the skills of those in employment, to give jobseekers relevant skills and to facilitate lifelong learning. The Fund is resourced by a levy on reckonable employment.
The government, as part of Budget 2018, decided to raise the rate of the National Training Fund levy by 0.1% in 2018 to 0.8% and by a further 0.1% in both 2019 and 2020 on the basis of the implementation of planned reforms. In total the increases have delivered additional annual investment from the Fund of €190 million.
These increases in the NTF levy were accompanied by a package of reforms to the Fund. These reforms were introduced following a consultation process with the employers with the aim of making the Fund more responsive to employer needs and to give employers a greater say in informing priorities for the Fund.
An independent review of the National Training Fund was commissioned by the Department of Education and Skills as part of the package of reforms. This independent review, which was undertaken by Indecon, was published by the Minister for Education and Skills on 17 August 2018. The report made 14 specific recommendations across 4 key areas.
An Implementation Plan to deliver the recommendations contained in the Independent Review was published as part of Budget 2019 along with details of a new advisory group to the National Skills Council in order optimise enterprise engagement on NTF priorities. The NTF Advisory Group has played an important role in advising on broad investment priorities from the Fund for 2020.