Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Tuesday, 2 November 2021

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Skills

Leaving Certificate Reform: Discussion (Resumed)

Dr. John O'Connor:

I thank the Senator and agree with the idea that this split between academic and vocational education and training is not particularly helpful. Any vocational education and training programme or qualification is going to require strong foundations in general education anyway so the aforementioned idea is a false choice. General education is also key for long-term progression. As the Minister said before he left, we have doctoral level apprenticeships. That is not just a symbolic statement. We actually have them in practice. That is quite unusual internationally and shows that we mean it when we talk about higher vocational education and training as distinct from higher education. That is a point well made.

On the skills piece, the skills and labour market research unit in SOLAS identifies skills that are in demand and provides forecasting in that area. The labour market intelligence function that we have can tell us, whether it is with regard to ecology or other areas, not just what occupations are in demand but also the skills and competencies that we will need for those particular occupations. It is really important to invest in and maintain that infrastructure so that we have good visibility. It is tricky these days to determine what we will need three, four or five years down the line. That labour market intelligence is also relevant for guidance and understanding the skills that are needed. If we are designing qualifications or educational programmes at this stage, we need to have good visibility, with a good deal of granularity, of the skills and competencies that we will need to build into qualifications. That could include sustainable education principles, green practices or green knowledge. We need to have that foresight and visibility from our labour market function which is well developed but not always well used, particularly in the senior cycle and in parts of the education and training system.


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