Chambers Ireland President Siobhan Kinsella reviews the training supports available to employers



Siobhan Kinsella, Chambers Ireland President, and Director at Noel Recruitment gives her review of the National Training Fund supports available for upskilling employees.

In recent years there has been improvements in the way that state training schemes have engaged with Irish labour market skills deficits. There has been a tighter focus on those who are in employment, and a renewed interest in apprenticeships since 2016.

This is in line with the major shift in labour supply that we have seen over the last few years. In 2012 16% of the working population was seeking employment, and today it is around 5-6%. With our housing crisis reducing our capacity to fill our skill shortages through immigration we are having to move towards upskilling members of the workforce while they are in employment.

Our tighter labour market has led to a shift towards upskilling those in employment rather than the unemployed with Springboard also becoming easier to access. Improvements to Skillnets has led to greater use of in-company training and more money for higher education is coming from the National Training Fund (NTF).

These training supports have been financed by increases in employer PRSI, which will move upwards again, to 11.05%, in January 2020, with 0.9% of this ringfenced for the NTF.

Given the increased numbers at work and the substantial rise in Employer PRSI, NTF spending has been unable to increase in line with the revenues that have accrued. While training for those in employment has been increasing, the training resources which are dedicated for those in unemployment still account for almost two thirds of the NTF spending, even though the unemployed population is a third of what it was in 2012.

Government are aware that this is the time to help those who are in employment to develop their skills through training programmes which employers can engage with.  Consequently, more money has been made available to Skillnets, Springboard, apprenticeships, traineeships and the creation of the “Skills to Advance” intervention by Solas and the Educational Training Boards (ETBs) which targets lower skilled workers.

I have given overviews below of some of these training support services including the modernised apprenticeships scheme, industry focused ETB traineeships which include work placement or subsidised training through “Skills to Advance”. Skillnet Ireland offers higher education schemes which are free to access for the unemployed but also involve subsidised opportunities for those in employment, and supported work programmed such as Jobsplus and the Wage Subsidy Scheme.



Since 2016 there has been a reconstruction of apprenticeships so there are now “pre-2016 and post-2016 programmes”

      • Professional apprenticeships in Insurance, IATI, Logistics, Hospitality
      • Block release is no longer a part of apprenticeships, new programmes validated only with employer consortium support.
      • Education partners are Higher Education Institutions and ETB’s
      • The employer pays the apprentice their wages throughout
      • Release is normally one/ two days per week during academic term.
      • More than 50% of the work must be work based learning.
      • The cost is covered through NTF and Solas and the HEA pays the institution once the Apprenticeship is up and running
      • Work based mentor required
      • Now on the National Framework of Qualifications and EQF


      • These have also been reconstructed to be more industry needs focused.
      • Run by the ETB’s
      • The Trainee is paid a training allowance throughout
      • Work placement experience of up to 10 weeks required (no wage cost) for facilitating and no cost for offering employment.
      • Major award received on the NFQ


      • Offers conversion courses and cert, diploma, degree and masters Courses through Higher Education Institutions
      • Free to the unemployed and returning to employment
      • Now open to those in employment (10% of cost)
      • 288 courses on offer with nearly 10,000 places

Skillnet Ireland

      • Created to fund and enable employers to upskill their workforce
      • Just received and extra €19 million to do so
      • Scheme has changed to allow more funding for “in company” training
      • Tender the training work from private providers and must respond to employer needs
      • You can have anything you need as long as it’s not legally required (e.g. Manual Handling)
      • Currently offering 100% FREE customs training for company’s exposed to Brexit
      • The need more employers to engage


      • This programme is simply a financial incentive to employed the unemployed.
      • Short Term unemployed is 12mths
      • Long term unemployed is 24mths
      • Grant is €7.5K over 2 years or €10K over 2 years
      • Paid to the employer monthly in arrears
      • All you need to do is register with your tax clearance cert and bank details and have your employee do the same

Wage Subsidy Scheme (WSS)

      • WSS provides financial incentives to employers, to employ disabled people who work more than 20 hours per week. 
      • Strand I subsidy  –  is a general subsidy for any perceived productivity shortfall in excess of 20% for a disabled person, in comparison to a non disabled peer.  An employee must work a minimum of 21 hours per week up to a maximum of 39 hours per week.   The rate of subsidy is €5.30 per hour and is based on the number of hours worked, giving a total annual subsidy available of €10,748 per annum based on 39 hour week. 
      • Strand II – is based on the total number of disabled employees in a company, an employer can apply for a grant to cover additional costs ranging from an additional 10%  for 3-6 employees to a maximum of 50% of the wage subsidy for 23+ disabled employees.
      • Strand III  – is where 30 or more disabled people are employed, employers can avail of a grant of €30,000 per annum to assist with the cost of employing an Employment Assistance Officer.—SW.aspx 

Skills to Advance

      • Designed to assist in the skills development of lower skilled workers through the employer.
      • Attempt to protect against skills obsolescence and future unemployment.
      • Max Aid Intensity 50% for costs of large organisations, 60% for medium organisations and 70% max for small organisations.
      • Accessed in consultation with your local ETB, not free!

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