Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Tuesday, 2 November 2021

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Skills

Leaving Certificate Reform: Discussion (Resumed)

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

More training on resilience would probably be useful in this game. The Senator raised a valid question. It is a point that I am trying to make here without being overly prescriptive or without crystal ball-gazing too much. There are skills that are transversal skills that I do not think our second level system as currently constructed is able to deliver on. That is not a criticism of the people there; they are doing an exceptional job. It is not a criticism at all but it goes to our values as a country. It goes to our view as to what we determine to be success. Success is different things for different people. I believe we are putting too much pressure on our students if their success, capabilities and talent is not in the areas that we are assessing.

There are a whole load of other areas where they could be really good, but we are not shining a light on them. I was talking to a number of youth organisations at the weekend, and they were hitting me with things like financial skills, digital literacy and climate. Climate is the big one. This is one that we could get right. Why not start it now instead of some other Minister sitting here in 20 years' time and the head of SOLAS saying we have to train all these people in their 40s and 50s in green skills? They are better clued into this than any generation before. We have a chance now to not have to go back and, pardon the pun, retrofit the next generation with climate skills but to try to find a way of working it into the school system.

I know the question on construction needs is for Mr. Brownlee, but I wish to make one comment on it. Sometimes, when we talk about the 27,500 – I am sure I am to blame on this too – people presume they are all in further education and training, FET, and that it is not the case. While a lot of them are in FET, when we look at the needs, we will also require architects, quantity surveyors and engineers. I say to Mr. Conlon and the HEA that it does not let the higher education side off the hook, nor would it wish to be. There will be a need to increase capacity in terms of training people in those areas where a higher education degree or a master's degree is needed, in addition to a lot of the areas that FET can provide as well.

I am acutely aware of the issue relating to access. In medicine, there can be too much sameness in terms of the background of people who enter certain professions and that is not good. To be honest, one of the barriers to entry on the graduate medicine programme is still the cost. I am working on proposals, which I hope to advance through the next Estimates process – it gets earlier every year – on how we can look at both the SUSI system and the level of financial support that is supplied. In fairness to my colleague, Deputy Conway-Walsh, she has raised graduate medicine with me too. It was indicated that law also has a role to play in this regard. I hope to engage with the law bodies and colleagues in the Department of Justice on this shortly. I will hand over to colleagues.


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