A research report on the Back To Education Allowance (BTEA) for Irish unemployed, produced by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) and published Wednesday says the scheme was in effect useless as there is no evidence of improved employment outcomes for recipients. Some recipients have been on courses for up to six years.


The damning conclusion of the researchers on the second biggest activation programme is:  

In fact, compared to similarly unemployed individuals, jobseekers who commenced an education course supported by the BTEA programme in September/October 2008 were between 23 and 38 percentage points less likely to have exited unemployment to a job by June 2012, and between 14 and 29 percentage points less likely at the same time in 2014.

In 2015 outside of the June-September period, the typical number of recipients was 24,000. Even though officially classified as unemployed they are not included in official unemployment data.

The report says that in response to the unemployment crisis that evolved from the recession, the Department of Social Protection (DSP) increased its expenditure on its Working Age Employment Supports schemes, which comprise a suite of activation programmes aimed at assisting social welfare recipients to progress into employment.

Examples include the Community Employment (CE) scheme, JobBridge, the Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) and the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance. Between 2007 and 2012, expenditure on these programmes rose by 48 per cent. However, the DSP’s spending on the BTEA scheme more than trebled, increasing from €64.1 million to €199.5 million, while the number of recipients quadrupled, growing from approximately 6,000 to almost 25,000. In terms of total expenditure, the BTEA scheme represents the second largest activation measure in Ireland, second only to the CE scheme.

The report says that there is little doubt that schemes that support access to education, like the BTEA, are a vital component of any life-long learning strategy. "Nevertheless, the evidence presented in this report, which is consistent with the findings from past reviews of the programme, raises concerns about the effectiveness of the BTEA in assisting jobseekers to transition from unemployment to employment. There is evidence that the BTEA scheme was successful in redirecting participants to further study or training. However, the scheme does not appear to be effective in terms of its core goal of assisting the unemployed to transition to employment. Furthermore, there is some concern around the degree of progression into higher level study for those BTEA participants that go this route of continued education."

In 1992 in 'Industrial Training in Ireland,' an official report authored by Dr Frank Roche and the late Paul Tansey, said that that Ireland was a poor trainer — both the State and the business sectors — and there was an urgent need to radically upgrade the skill base of the workforce.

Ireland skills trainingAnCo and FÁS, public agencies, gave good business to private trainers but the they were unfit for purpose. The discredited FÁS has been rebranded as SOLAS (An tSeirbhís Oideachais Leanúnaigh agus Scileanna) — the acronym is the Gaelic word for light!

An OECD report in 2010 concluded in respect of FÁS that: "Evaluations and data to assess its efficiency and effectiveness are lacking," and in general: "Data on labour market outcomes are fragmented and research on VET (vocational education and training) is scarce. The wide range of VET programmes has not been systematically evaluated."

The Irish apprenticeship system is both stuck in the past and is the worst in Western Europe.