Step-Up, a new programme offering a wide range of flexible new courses is being provided by Northern Ireland’s six further education colleges from September 2023.
Consisting of three different strands; College Connect, DARE (Disability Access Route to Education and Employment) and WRAP (Women Returners Access Programme) the programme aims to help anyone over the age of 16, anyone with a disability and those returning to work after a career break to re-engage their skills and education to help them access employment.
Funding for the programme, which was announced recently by the Department for the Economy, has been provided by the UK Government under the New Deal for Northern Ireland initiative and aims to increase access and participation of under-represented individuals in skills, education and employment opportunities.
The College Connect + is aimed at younger students and any care leavers between the ages of 16-24. With and individual development plan, together with mentorship and careers advice, College Connect + supports additional transversal skills achievement and leads to qualifications – level is dependent on the learner.
College Connect 24+ targets those aged 25 and over who are currently not in education, employment or any training. Individual development plans together with a range of flexible delivery modules and short accredited courses will build additional transversal skills to support learners into further training, education or employment.
For learners with a disability who are looking to enhance their skills and offer experience to create pathways into Further Education and employment, Disability Access Route to Education and Employment is open to all who have a disability, are aged 16 years or over and are unemployed or economically inactive. Support offered through DARE includes weekly mentorship, goal setting and action planning specific to the individual learner to enhance opportunities to gain qualifications and progress into work or stay in work. Learners will also receive support from expert organisations where appropriate.
WRAP enables professionals to return to work following an extended career break. This programme is aimed at unemployed or economically inactive women who wish to build confidence, refresh skills, gain qualifications and work experience in areas of economic demand. Learners will receive job coaching and mentorship and support will be provided to create progression pathways including further and higher education or employment.
Students who avail of the new Step-Up Programme will also be offered the opportunity to receive funding for travel, childcare and any equipment they might need to complete their course.
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