€430 million New Capital Investment Announced for the Further and Higher Education Sectors

15 Feb 2022
On 14th February 2022, a new investment of €430 million in capital programmes for further and higher education sectors was announced by Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD and Minister of State for Skills Niall Collins TD.

In an exciting development for the sector, 45% of this funding will be directed to further education and training, including the expansion of skills centres and the establishment of Further Education and Training Colleges of the Future.

Learner Voice
AONTAS has continually advocated for the benefits of learning through our lives, and we welcome the reflection of the importance of lifelong learning in this announcement. Minister Harris said that this new funding will “cater for rising demand by offering a comprehensive range of complementary options for learners. This includes increasing numbers of school leavers seeking further and higher education places – including apprenticeships – as well as those seeking to reskill and upskill throughout their lives.”

To hear the opinion of adult learners from across Ireland, AONTAS leads a large-scale information-gathering project called the National FET Learner Forum, in collaboration with Education and Training Boards (ETBs) and SOLAS. We then use this information to advocate for the adult learning sector.

Over the years, the feedback we have gained from learners has reflected the importance of having a good space for learning. The importance of appropriate space has become even more relevant due to COVID-19. However, from our Annual Synthesis Report in 2020-21, we learned that there were other concerns with building facilities that pre-dated COVID-19 restrictions.

In survey comments, one learner expressed the need for greater accessibility, writing:

“Be mindful of disability and access needs so that classes are at ground floor level where appropriate as lifts aren’t always in order.”’

Many learners report being satisfied with the facilities at their centres. However, in the Annual Synthesis Report in 2019, some learners cited issues with heating, natural lighting and a lack of non-classroom space for learners.

As one learner explained, “The building itself, because it’s a warehouse, you can see your breath in it, it’s cold. We need to find a new place that will give us rent at a reasonable rate.”

Another learner remarked, “My centre is in a very inconvenient location, it’s in the back of a business park.” Creating a comfortable and appropriate learning space would have a positive effect on learners’ experience and well-being.

In the Annual Synthesis Report from 2018, learners reported their belief that FET centres should have as much equality between them as possible, noting that canteens, microwaves, water fountains and access to parking facilities should be included in each FET centre, and that any disparities in facilities and the physical environment between FET centres should be addressed.

Overall, learners’ feedback was to:

−Ensure facilities in Education and Training Boards (ETBs) are functional and accessible

−Provide the most up-to-date software and equipment to relevant courses in each ETB

−Address any disparities in facilities and physical environment between FET centres

Given this these reports from learners over the last few years, AONTAS welcomes this new €430 million investment in building and infrastructure for the FET sector.

Learner Voice is at the heart of our work at AONTAS. For more on how we gather feedback from learners through the National FET Learner Forum, and how we use it in our advocacy work, take a look at our website

For further information, please contact Kalianne Farren, AONTAS Research Officer (Learner Voice) at:

Written by Dr Kate Smyth, AONTAS Communications Officer.