Step Up – the person-centred skills project
If you are 16 and over and eligible to work in Northern Ireland, a range of flexible, individualised support is now available within the Further Education Colleges and Higher Education Institutions of Northern Ireland to help you to re-engage with skills and education and to access employment.
What is Step Up
Step Up will give you an opportunity to build your confidence, explore career options, build on existing skills and gain qualifications while also benefiting from one-to-one mentorship. Other help includes supported work experience, action planning and careers advice.
The length of time spent on the Project is agreed with you. With the right support, progression to further or higher education, skills training or employment is just a step away.
There are up to 4,700 free places available until the end of March 2025.
Who Step Up can help
Step Up provides support for people with specific characteristics such as:
- people aged from 16 to 24 years old who are not in employment or education or training
- people aged from 16 to 24 years old who care leavers
- people aged 24 years and over who are unemployed or economically inactive
- young people and adults with a disability or Special Educational Needs
- economically inactive women returners
Step Up in Further Education
Further Education Colleges offer:
College Connect +
College Connect + is for those aged between 16 and 24 years of age who are currently not in education, employment or training. An individual development plan, together with mentorship and careers advice will support additional transversal skills achievement and lead to qualifications (the level is dependent on the learner).
College Connect 24+
Those aged 25 and over who are currently not in education, employment or training can apply for College Connect 24+. An individual development plan, together with a range of flexible delivery modules and short accredited courses will build additional transversal skills to support you into further training, education or employment.
DARE - Disability Access Route to Education and Employment
DARE is open to all who have a disability, are aged 16 years or over and are unemployed or economically inactive. Support offered through DARE includes weekly mentorship, goal setting and action planning specific to the individual learner to enhance opportunities to gain qualifications and progress into work or stay in work. Support from expert organisations will be included where appropriate.
WRAP - Women Returners Access Programme
Unemployed or economically inactive women aged 18 years plus, who wish to build confidence, refresh skills, gain qualifications and work experience in areas of economic demand can apply to WRAP. Through job coaching and mentorship, support will be provided to create progression pathways including to further and higher education or employment.
Step Up in Higher Education
Through a range of measures, Higher Education institutions have put in place specific support for individuals to encourage ongoing engagement, higher retention rates and more chances for progression.
Further information can be found at the university links below.
Where and how to apply
Details of what’s on offer and how to apply to Step Up can be found here:
Further Education Colleges
- Step Up Project at Northern Regional College
- Step Up Project at Belfast Metropolitan College
- Step Up Project at South Eastern Regional College
- Step Up Project at South West College
- Step Up at Southern Regional College
- Step Up Project at North West Regional College
Higher Education Colleges
Step Up at The Queen’s University of Belfast is based on giving support and opportunities for Care Experienced students and young people.
Step Up has allowed for an expansion of the Reading Together and Numeracy Together programmes. These programmes are designed to improve the literacy and numeracy skills and confidence of children P5-P7 who are in care.
Also, the Widening Participation Unit have been able to introduce a ‘Steps to Success’ course that aims to improve emotional literacy for children in care who have entered Year 8 and are starting their post-primary school journey.
Find out more about these programmes here:
Step Up has also funded for an additional bursary for Care Experienced students who are studying at Queen’s University Belfast.
Find out more about the support available for care experienced students at Queen’s here: Care Experienced Young People
- Step Up Project at St Mary's College (DfE)
- Step Up Project at Stranmillis University College
- Step Up Project at University of Ulster
A number of travel bursaries are available to help current students, who have extra complex needs and who without the additional financial support may not be able to continue their programme of study.
The bursaries will be aimed at all students with a background of care and students registered on Nursing, Allied Health and Social Work programmes who have confirmed caring responsibilities or disabilities.
Student Success Centre
The centre will help learners at high risk of not returning or finishing courses, including those on leave of absence, and will include solutions to support the passage and success of learners in higher education and beyond, including employment.
ADAPT – Virtual Campus
This provides a smooth virtual experience for staff, students, and visitors to interact with the campus through smartphones, laptops, or virtual reality goggles. With a strong focus on helping well-being and engagement, the project equips users to explore key areas on campus.