Thursday, 18 February 2021
Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment
24. To ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the extent to which the workforce here continues to have the increased skills necessary to meet modern market requirements; the extent to which this issue continues to be examined and addressed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9327/21]
My Department is aware that it is essential that Irish enterprise has access to high-quality, adaptable and flexible talent. In order to meet this demand, the Government is committed to building and retaining a highly skilled workforce to serve the needs of the economy.
This goal is set out under the framework of an overarching skills development strategy, Ireland’s National Skills Strategy 2025, which sets out a vision of how Ireland can continue to develop relevant skills and ensure that the supply of skills is activated and effectively used.
This is particularly important in the context of the pandemic, which has accelerated some deep structural shifts that were already in train across the economy, particularly when it comes to the twin transitions- digital and green. We know that many of the jobs that exist today may not exist by the end of this decade, but we also know there will be new jobs and new occupations and new businesses.
The sophisticated skills architecture established in Ireland is key in identifying and responding to skills gaps as identified by enterprise and education and training providers. It constitutes the following elements:
National Skills Council (NSC): The NSC was established in 2017. It provides a mechanism for mediating demands on resources in a manner that facilitates prioritisation of identified skills needs, while at the same time enhancing education and training provider responses to and delivery of these identified needs. The Council draws on the work of the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN), the Skills and Labour Market Research Unit in SOLAS, and the Regional Skills Fora.
A network of 9 Regional Skills Fora fosters close co-operation at regional level between education and training providers and regional enterprise. The Fora provide a cohesive education-led structure for employers and the further education and higher education system to work together in building the skills needs of their regions.
The EGFSN is an independent, non-statutory body, which includes representatives from the business community, trade unions, and a number of Government Departments and agencies. It identifies the skills required by enterprise across occupations and sectors, as well as providing information to education and training providers to allow them to support the alignment of programmes with employers’ needs. My Department provides the EGFSN with research and secretariat support.
The Government is supporting participation in upskilling and reskilling through a range of education and training programmes informed by this labour market and skills intelligence, which are funded through the National Training Fund. These include Skillnet Ireland, the Higher Education Authority’s Springboard+ programme, apprenticeships and digital upskilling programmes such as SOLAS’s Skills to Advance and Skills to Compete. The National Training Fund is also supporting an annual €60 million investment in the Higher Education system, through the Human Capital Initiative.
As part of the July 2020 Jobs Stimulus, the Government also introduced a series of initiatives focused on workforce upskilling and the skilling or reskilling of new workforce entrants and those made redundant by the pandemic. These include:
- 35,000 additional places in further and higher education
- A Retrofit Skills Training Initiative, to support future expansion of the National Retrofitting Programme; and
- An Apprenticeship Incentivisation Scheme, to support employers to take on new apprentices in 2020. This has been extended into 2021.
Through the agencies and initiatives mentioned above my Department and the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science will continue to ensure that an adequate and appropriately skilled workforce remains readily available to meet modern market requirements.