10 April, 2024 | Posted by Jenny Smith

Why Now is the Right Time to Study an Early Years Course

Two preschool teachers with children at a colourful table


In today's rapidly evolving early childhood care and education landscape, the demand for skilled professionals in the early years sector has never been higher.

The Nurturing Skills Learner Fund 2024 is a government fund that supports early years practitioners to cover the cost of upskilling to a level 7 or 8 early childhood care and education degree

The role of early years practitioners is not just about childcare; it's about shaping the foundation of a child's future.

Whether you're passionate about working with children or seeking a fulfilling career path with ample growth opportunities, here's why now is the right time to study an early years course.

1. Unique Opportunity with the Nurturing Skills Learner Fund

Portobello Institute is participating in the new Nurturing Skills Learner Fund Scheme (NSLF)The new fund helps early years educators to upskill to level 7 and level 8 qualifications by covering a significant part of the cost. The courses covered by the Nurturing Skills Learner Fund Scheme at Portobello Institute include:

The upskilling of qualifications of those working in the early years sector in Ireland is in line with the government's commitments in Nurturing Skills: The Workforce Plan for Early Learning and Care and School-Age Childcare, 2022-2028

If you are working in the early years sector in Ireland and have considered gaining your degree, this fund is your best opportunity to take the leap and gain your qualification to keep up with the sector which is developing at a rapid pace. 

Read More: How to Apply for the Nurturing Skills Learner Fund

2. Growing Demand for Qualified Professionals

As societies and the Irish government recognise the critical importance of early childhood education, the demand for qualified early years practitioners continues to surge.

In Ireland, like many other countries, there's an increasing emphasis on providing high-quality early learning experiences to young children.

As a result, there's a significant need for individuals equipped with the knowledge and skills to support children's development during these formative years.

A level 6 qualification is the current minimum requirement to work in Early Learning and Care (ELC) in Ireland. However, this is expected to develop to level 7 as more and more of the sector are qualified and a degree becomes the norm. 

3. Career Opportunities Abound

Studying an early years course opens doors to a wide array of career opportunities. Graduates can pursue roles in various settings, including preschools, nurseries, primary schools, community centres, and private households. Graduates who hold a level 8 (BA Hons) qualification can go on to work in government roles, go down a primary school teaching route (meeting Irish language requirements) and pursue Master's studies moving towards lecturing and policymaking.

Moreover, with the growing focus on early intervention and support for children with diverse needs, there's a rising demand for specialists in areas such as special education and child psychology.

4. Make a Meaningful Impact

Few careers offer the opportunity to make such a profound and lasting impact on individuals' lives as working in early years education. By nurturing children's social, emotional, cognitive, and physical development during their most critical years, early years practitioners play a pivotal role in shaping their future successes.

Whether it's fostering a love for learning, promoting creativity, or instilling important life skills, every interaction with a child can make a difference.

5. Professional Development and Advancement

Continuous professional development is essential in any field, and early years education is no exception.

By enrolling in an early years course, you'll gain valuable knowledge and practical skills that will not only prepare you for your initial role but also lay the foundation for ongoing growth and advancement in your career.

Many institutions offer opportunities for further specialisation or advancement through postgraduate studies or professional certifications.

6. Fulfilling and Rewarding Work

Working with young children can be incredibly rewarding. There's a unique joy in witnessing their curiosity, creativity, and growth unfold each day.

Whether you are celebrating a child's first steps, seeing their eyes light up with wonder as they discover something new, or receiving a heartfelt hug that speaks volumes, the moments shared with children can bring immeasurable career fulfilment and satisfaction.

The time to pursue an early years course is now.

With the unique opportunity to have the majority of your fees covered by the Nurture Skills Learner Fund, increasing demand for qualified professionals, abundant career opportunities, the chance to make a meaningful impact, avenues for professional development, and the inherent rewards of working with young children, it's an exciting and fulfilling path to embark on and an excellent time to upskill.

Whether you're just starting your career journey or seeking a change of direction, studying early years education sets the stage for a rewarding and impactful career ahead.

How Much of the Cost Does the Nurturing Skills Learner Fund Scheme Cover?

Fees for the Nurturing Skills Learner Fund Scheme are calculated as follows:

  • Cost per academic year: €3,600
  • Nurture Fund Grant at 80% of fee: €2,880
  • Cost to student per academic year: €720

Important: If you remain working in the early years sector for 6 months after completion of the course, you will be entitled to reclaim 10% of the total fees i.e. €360 per academic year.

The total cost to the student, after this rebate, will be €720 for the 2 years of the level 7 degree.

Payment method – pay €720 to secure your place in year 1.

A similar amount will be payable on or before 30th June 2025 to secure your place and confirm progression to year 2.

Students will need to provide evidence of NSLF approval to Portobello Institute when applying for either of the degree programmes. 

How will I know if I am eligible? 

To qualify for financial support through the NSLF, all course applicants must currently be employed in an Early Learning and Care (ELC) or School Aged Childcare (SAC) service under contract for DCEDIY’s Core Funding program. 

How many places are available? 

This is a pilot fund with the number of places allocated for funding limited.

It is essential to register your interest and submit your application early to avail of this extraordinary opportunity.

Application Timeline 

Applications for the Nurturing Skills Learner Fund will open in May 2024, for degree programmes commencing in October 2024.

To ensure that you keep up to date with the fund application timelines, please complete the initial Expression of Interest form provided below and we will be in touch with you as soon the application window is open.  

Portobello Institute is delighted to be part of the NSLF and looks forward to supporting you in furthering your education and career in Early Learning and Care. 

Please note - this is a pilot fund and the number of places allocated are limited, registering your interest and early application will be essential to ensure you don't lose this opportunity.

Register your Interest

Please fill in this form to let us know that you are interested and we will contact you with more information.

Which Qualification is Right For Me?

If you hold a major award in Early Childhood Care and Education or Early Learning and Care at level 6 or equivalent you can complete the BA Ord Early Childhood Care and Education degree in just two years and there will be an opportunity to go onto a one-year BA Honours (level 8) programme after its completion.

If you hold an award in Early Childhood Care and Education at level 7, you can complete a level 8 award in one year at Portobello Institute.

Why Choose Portobello Institute?

Portobello Institute foundations lie in early years education since 1981.

We have a longstanding reputation in the early years sector, offering you flexibility through our blended learning delivery so you can study on your own time while balancing family and work commitments.

Many of our graduates found our delivery and one-to-one support helped them to go further than they ever thought possible, as our tutors take a personal interest in your success, nurturing every student to achieve their best.

Our tutors are knowledgeable, experienced practitioners who know all of the latest changes in the sector, as well as the foundational principles necessary for success in early childhood care and education.

Corine's Peter's Portobello Institute Early Years Success Story

Read Corine's Success Story here.

Ann Maher Success Story Portobello Institute Early Years

Read Ann's Success Story here.

Anna Portobello Early Years Success Story

Read Anna's Success Story here.

If you are interested in obtaining funding through the Nurturing Skills Learner Fund Scheme please register your interest by completing the form above and we will be in touch with you.

If you have any questions you can book a consultation call with our expert course advisor Sarah Coyne email sarah.coyne@portobelloinstitute.com or call 01 892 0028. 

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