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Minister Harris announces funding to support Traveller and Roma learners in higher education and apprenticeships

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD has today announced significant funding to drive Traveller and Roma learner participation in apprenticeships and higher education.


Under the newly launched PATH 5 programme, €450,000 in funding has been allocated to higher education institutions to increase participation and progression of the two communities in higher education.


And, as part of the Action Plan for Apprenticeships, several social inclusion measures aimed at supporting Traveller and Roma learners are being progressed through Budget 2023 and Dormant Accounts funding of €850,000.


Speaking today, Minister Harris said: “I firmly believe it is so important that everyone is afforded equal learning opportunities and that nobody is left behind.


“This PATH 5 funding for higher education, and secured as part of the National Access Plan, will further strengthen access, participation and success for students from the Traveller and Roma Communities, and crucially help us reach our ambitious targets.


“But access to education is not just about providing support for those in higher education. As part of my brief it is essential we also deliver for those who have different career dreams and aspirations.


“That’s why I’m so pleased about the progress being made with the funding announced as part of Budget 2023 to drive support and access in apprenticeships.”


The key objectives of the PATH 5 fund, which will be administered by the HEA, are:

  • To increase the participation and progression of the Traveller and Roma communities in Higher Education and, to support the achievement of National Access Plan 2022-2028 targets.
  • To further develop community-based partnerships with the Traveller Community.
  • To build community partnerships with the Roma community and Roma organisations, recognising that further work is required to develop relationships and to build cultural awareness of their needs in Higher Education Institutions


This investment in Higher Education Institutions will help build on the existing provisions already in place for students from the Traveller and Roma communities. Institutions are being asked to use this funding stream to support additional activities which will drive the objectives of the plan and, in particular, increase participation which has remained consistently low.

Minister Harris today announced significant progress on several social inclusion measures under the Action Plan for Apprenticeship.

These are:

  • Traveller & Roma Apprenticeship Incentivisation Programme
  • Social Inclusion Apprentice Bursary
  • Access to Apprenticeship programmes
  • Access & Inclusion sub-committee of the National Apprenticeship Alliance (NAA)

Whilst an apprenticeship is a paid employment contract, there may be associated costs for apprentices, such as buying tools or equipment. To help with this, the Traveller Apprenticeship Incentivisation Programme and the new Social Inclusion Bursary will provide sums of €2,000 to €2,500 to apprentices.

The Traveller Apprenticeship Incentivisation Programme was confirmed last month under the Dormant Accounts Funding and, through the Irish Traveller Movement, is recruiting for the two key posts required to deliver the scheme.

Apprentices will receive €2,500 to help them engage in or remain on an apprenticeship programme. In addition, the National Apprenticeship Office is finalising arrangements to have the Social Inclusion Apprentice Bursary granted in early 2023. Each beneficiary of the Bursary will receive €2,000, mirroring the amount available for employers under the Apprenticeship Employer Grant.

Under Budget 2023, €300,000 funding is also being provided to further expand the national Access to Apprenticeship Programme. Work is underway in the sector to identify the best locations and partner organisations to deliver this. 

Membership of the NAA’s Access & Inclusion sub-committee is being finalised, with members nominated to different educational, employment, and socio-economic groups. The sub-committee will have its first meeting in January, when it will begin its work of advising and supporting the National Apprenticeship Alliance on the delivery of relevant equity and inclusion actions set out in the Action Plan.

Minister Harris added: “While securing funding for social inclusion measures was significant, I believe that it is also important to mark important milestones, such as these, when the funding begins to be used.

“I am particularly delighted to see the progress that has been made in the short time since the funding announcements in September and October regarding the Budget and the Dormant Accounts Fund. I am particularly happy to note that the Irish Traveller Movement has begun recruiting for the two posts which will deliver the Traveller Apprenticeship Incentivisation Programme

“Social inclusion and equality of access is a key ambition within the Action Plan for Apprenticeship 2021-25. Today’s announcements demonstrate that this Action Plan is more than just words of aspiration.

“There are real and tangible efforts being invested in making our apprenticeship programmes more accessible to all and this will result in real and tangible opportunities for even more people.”

Bernard Joyce, Director of the Irish Traveller Movement welcomed the announcement today of two progressive new government initiatives to support Travellers into higher education and to improve employment chances. 


He said: “There is no shortage of talent or ability and yet 83% of Travellers are unemployed. This new targeted approach addresses some of the structural obstacles faced  by Travellers taking up apprenticeships, while also recognising the often ingrained discrimination in seeking employment, by incentivising employers who recruit Travellers under the scheme.  


“The continued Government focus on Travellers in third level is also reassuring as just 33 students started undergraduate degrees in 2020/2021, against a target now set of 150. Eradicating all impediments to entering third level must be connected to a long term approach and recent Traveller graduates who are teachers, medics, artists, digital , social and community practitioners prove that where resources are available to a disadvantaged student, it is more likely to lead to a positive outcome.”




Notes to the Editor:

PATH 5 Programme

In 2020 Minister Simon Harris announced ring-fenced funding of €300,000 for targeted supports to address the implications of Covid-19 for Students from the Traveller community to transfer to and progress within higher education in 2021. This funding was secured through the Dormant Accounts Fund and was aimed at helping ensure expected increases in Traveller participation in higher education remained on track. In 2021, the fund increased to €450,000 and was extended to students from the Roma community. 

Early feedback from key stakeholders in relation to the Traveller and Roma Dormant Accounts funding indicated that this funding had a positive impact and has supported Travellers staying in higher education.  Specifically, the Traveller and Dormant Account was welcomed as the first ring- fenced fund for Traveller and Roma students in the higher education space.  However, challenges in relation to the level and sustainability of funding were also identified. 

In 2022, the fourth National Access Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education (NAP) (2022 – 2028) was launched. It identifies several priority groups that are currently under-represented in higher education, including Irish Travellers and the Roma community. The review of progress undertaken during preparation of this Plan showed that Traveller participation numbers in higher education have remained consistently low and below expectations. The new NAP sets ambitious targets for Traveller participation in Higher Education and for the first time, students from the Roma community have also been included as a key priority group.

For this National Action Plan, a goal will be set to increase the current number of Traveller new entrants from 33 to 150. This target represents around 0.32% of the new entrant population.

Sustainable and increased funding through PATH 5 will support HEIs to build long term relationships in their communities with the Traveller community and the Roma community  who there has been less engagement with to date, and where more work is required to build a cultural awareness of the needs of the Roma community in HEIs. It will enable HEIs to put in place an infrastructure to increase the participation of Traveller and Roma students in Higher Education. PATH 5 will also support the targets identified as part of the new NAP (2022-2028) to be achieved.

The following Institutions will receive the following allocations:


€                                 24,514


€                                 42,596


€                                 22,012


€                                 27,137


€                                 40,441


€                                 24,793


€                                 26,477


 €                                 37,122


 €                                 26,530


€                                 15,191


€                                   8,534


€                                   8,820


 €                                 37,566


€                                 10,337


€                                 16,671


 €                                 30,929


 €                                 32,493


€                                   9,510


€                                   8,327


€                               450,000

Traveller Apprenticeship Incentivisation Scheme

A key objective of the Action Plan is “apprenticeship for all”, whereby the apprenticeship population more closely reflects the national population. Currently, groups such as Travellers, Roma, people with disabilities and single parents are under-represented. These measures aim to help to address the balance.

The Programme will be structured across three streams:

  • Stream 1 - €3,000 bursary each for 25 Travellers who are employed as new apprentices and €2,000 incentive payment each for their employers. 
  • Stream 2 - €3,000 bursary each for 25 existing Traveller apprentices.
  • Stream 3 - €3,000 bursary each for 25 Travellers to access pre-apprenticeship and Access to Apprenticeship programmes.

Access & Inclusion sub-committee of the NAA

Categories represented on the 12-person sub-committee are:

  1. Access Experience
  2. Disability representation
  3. Unemployed & Gender perspective
  4. Sexual orientation & Gendered identity beliefs
  5. Ethnic minority representation
  6. Immigrant representation
  7. Young people and youth justice representation
  8. Employees perspective
  9. Employers perspective