Figures from FÁS, the State training agency, indicate that 79,700 who had never previously registered with the agency signed up between January and November 2011 in an effort to find work and to retrain.
Some 26 per cent of the new registrants held a third-level qualification; a total of 17 per cent came from a professional or technical background; and 7 per cent had worked in a managerial capacity before becoming unemployed.
A further 79,000 or so participants re-registered with FÁS – soon to be replaced by SOLAS – over the same period.
The number of participants in FÁS training courses more than doubled between 2007 and 2010, with over 89,000 participants in 2010 compared to less than 40,000 in 2007.
People who find themselves unemployed are also taking courses at the Institutes of Technology and the Universities to improve their prospects.
Between 2007-2008 and 2010-2011 there was a 36 per cent increase in mature full-time undergraduate new entrants and an 11 per cent increase in mature part-time new entrants, according to figures from the Higher Education Authority (HEA).
About 4,500 people are taking part-time courses at third-level institutions and private colleges under the HEA’s Springboard programme. The scheme is geared at graduates and those with apprenticeships who worked in sectors such as construction and manufacturing, where employment is unlikely to recover.