On May 9th 2023, the report OECD Skills Strategy Ireland Assessment and Recommendations was published, and with it Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD, and Minister of State for Skills and Further Education Niall Collins TD, launched the 2023 European Year of Skills in Ireland.
In the opening paragraph of the Executive Summary states: “This OECD Skills Strategy Assessment and Recommendations project reviews how Ireland’s existing skills strategy – the National Skills Strategy (NSS) 2025 – might need to be adapted to ensure that it is still fit for purpose. Through desk research and active engagement with government and stakeholder representatives in multiple workshops, group discussions and bilateral meetings, the project identifies priority areas for action and provides tailored recommendations for improving Ireland’s skills outcomes. This report is not positioned as an implementation plan. Further work is required by Irish stakeholders to sequence and prioritise investments in order to move forward on the areas for action identified.” (p12)
Amongst the key findings identified were: getting skills policies right is critical for ensuring societal well-being and inclusive and sustainable growth in Ireland; a number of megatrends are changing the skills needed for success in work and society; and skills policies should be at the core of Ireland’s response to these trends.
The OECD note their Skills Strategy Framework consists of developing relevant skills over the life course; using skills effectively in work and society; and strengthening the governance of skills systems. This focus of this framework is broader than the four priorities the OECD identify for Ireland in their report, which have a stronger labour market and enterprise focus.
The Four Priorities are as follows:
- Securing a balance in skills through a responsive and diversified supply of skills
- Fostering greater participation in lifelong learning in and outside the workplace
- Leveraging skills to drive innovation and strengthen firm performance
- Strengthening skills governance to build a joined-up skills ecosystem
Under Priority 2 the OECD states that “Encouraging a culture of lifelong learning is crucial to ensuring that individuals actively engage in adult learning after leaving the compulsory education system. In turn, participation in different forms of adult learning results in a wide range of benefits, including higher wages for individuals, higher productivity for firms and higher levels of social trust. Across countries, there is a growing need to upskill and reskill regularly over the life course to adapt to labour market and societal developments. To foster greater participation in lifelong learning in and outside the workplace, Ireland should:
- strengthen incentives to participate in lifelong learning for individuals
- strengthen incentives to participate in lifelong learning for employers
- make lifelong learning more flexible and accessible.” (p13)
At the INOU’s Annual Delegate Conference held in May, one delegate noted the importance of training and time to let people flourish; others noted that there is a need to increase the training allowance; concerns were raised that post-Covid 19 there has been a lack of information on training courses; others identified a need for more training. There was a call for a person centred service, which starts with the person and builds suitable training, programmes, work choices, job-seeking skills around them. Such an approach is particularly important for people who are isolated and more distanced from the labour market and who will need a developmental approach to thrive.
At present Ireland is developing a national strategic framework for lifelong guidance. The Department of Education are leading on this work. Amongst the issues the INOU raised in the online consultation was the need for the creation of accessible supports for people of working age who are not on a Jobseeker’s payment or on an education course; while ensuring that people who are on a social welfare payment or course can access the right guidance for them. This is particularly important given the relationship between educational and employment status. According to the Central Statistics Office’s Educational Attainment Thematic Report 2022: “Unemployment rates (Q2 2022) for those aged 25-64 years old generally decreased as the level of education attained increased”; and “The unemployment rate for early school leavers was 21% compared to 6% for other persons aged 18-24”.
The report OECD Skills Strategy Ireland Assessment and Recommendations is linked here.