Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris T.D., has announced 13 projects to be funded around the country in a first tranche of capital investment under the Further Education and Training (FET) Strategic Infrastructure Upgrade Fund.
The Minister made the announcement while visiting Clondalkin College of Further Education, which will be one of the 13 locations to benefit from investment under the Fund. Funding in this particular location will enable the upgrade and extension of the FET Centre, including remediation works to the existing building and replacement of 40-50 year old prefabs. The Centre will serve an increasing number of priority cohorts, including long term unemployed, early school leavers, new nationalities and Travellers.
The Minister said: “Earlier this year, I set out my vision for a very ambitious programme of investment in the Further Education and Training sector. The reality is that the infrastructure available to many FET colleges is not reflective of the hugely important role the FET sector plays.
“Today is the start of the significant investment that will modernise and upgrade FET infrastructure and that will enable the ambitions of the FET strategy to be fully realised. The projects I am announcing today will transform the learner experience.
“The 13 projects reflect the diversity and broad reach of the FET sector. In all cases, the Education and Training Boards (ETBs) have been required to demonstrate that the individual projects are part of a strategic approach to estates development.
“The investments will support the replacement of aging prefabs with modern teaching and learning spaces; expansion of capacity - including for apprenticeships and other training; bolstering of links to industry and to higher education; and improvements to Youthreach infrastructure.
“I look forward to visiting each of the project locations over the coming months and to engaging with ETBs on the vision and plans for their developments. I will announce further details on individual projects in that context.”
Funding for the projects will be provided through SOLAS.
Chief Executive of SOLAS, Andrew Brownlee, said: "Further Education & Training has a unique and special value both for learners and for our communities - and these learners and communities deserve cutting edge facilities and equipment. This announcement of capital funding is a welcome step that will mean that our FET facilities reflect the modern, dynamic nature of FET provision in 2022.
"The ambitious scale of vision set out in the national FET strategy, Future FET: Transforming Learning, is being met by suitably ambitious investment. This funding will enable nationally coordinated and strategic action that will form the foundation of FET Colleges of the Future; greatly expand capacity; build up our national skills portfolio; strengthen pathways through and from FET; and most importantly, best serve the FET learners of today and tomorrow. This investment in capital is an investment in the future of FET - and the many hundreds of thousands of learners it will directly benefit."
The 13 projects, which have been approved for appointment of a design team, form part of a wider programme of strategic capital investment in the FET sector. While individual project cost estimates will be refined as part of the design stage, it is expected that investments under this phase will total at least €50 million. A further 14 project applications submitted under the Strategic Infrastructure Upgrade Fund remain under consideration and will be the subject of further engagement between SOLAS and the relevant ETBs.
Assessment is also ongoing of larger-scale project applications submitted under the FET College of the Future Major Projects fund.
The 13 projects approved to proceed today will be in the following ETBs - Cork ETB, Dublin and Dún Laoghaire ETB, Laois Offaly ETB, Tipperary ETB, City of Dublin ETB, Kilkenny Carlow ETB, Kerry ETB, Limerick Clare ETB, Longford Westmeath ETB, Louth Meath ETB AND Mayo Sligo Leitrim ETB.
Details of each project will be announced by the Minister in the coming weeks.