Thursday, 20 May 2021
Department of Education and Skills
308. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the additional provisions being made to ensure an adequate supply of graduates with appropriate qualifications in the sciences, innovation and research with particular reference to the need to enhance Ireland’s capabilities in these areas and to fill the posts currently required and likely to be required in the future given international progress in these areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5976/21]
The development of a country’s talent entails lifelong investment and commitment on the part of both the individual and the State. From pre-primary through to further and higher education and throughout an individual’s career, skills and knowledge need to be continuously enhanced if individuals, employers and countries are to realise their potential.
The role of education, research and innovation, and their relationship with skills development, are key drivers of productivity in the workforce and in businesses. This, through the work of my department, is a key component of the development of a sustainable economy and society.
Strong collaborative links between the further and higher education system and enterprise have been developed and expanded over recent years. The National Skills Council, the Regional Skills Fora, the National Training Fund Advisory Group and the Apprenticeship Council are some of our partnership mechanisms, with the education and training system, and their industry representatives. These relationships allow us to gather insights and data directly from enterprise that feed into high level national policy decisions and allow us to know exactly what enterprise wants us to deliver.
Postgraduate education delivered by higher education institutions is critical to Ireland’s research system. In addition to contributing to knowledge, postgraduate researcher education drives participants to develop their own research skills that can be applied in a range of environments, in academia or industry, at home or abroad.
It is imperative that we continue to develop a pipeline of research talent if Ireland is to realise its ambitions under the new Programme for Government and Project Ireland 2040 and my officials will be exploring this as part of the development of the next national research and innovation strategy currently underway at my department and due to be published later this year. We recognise that Ireland needs to intensify its commitment to building a knowledge-based economy in an increasingly competitive global environment, reinforcing and building on existing competitive strengths. My hope is that the Strategy will not only re-commit to the vision for Ireland to be a Global Innovation Leader but will chart an ambitious but achievable course to get there.
- In 2019, there were 77,815 graduates from the Higher Education sector. Of these, 4,916 were in ICT, 8,116 in Engineering Manufacturing and Construction and 6,472 in Science and Maths.
- In 2018/2019, total enrolments at Research Masters and Ph.D. level was 10,529, the highest amount enrolled since the peak of 10,774 in 2009/10. Of those currently enrolled, approx. 62% are in STEM areas.
- Technology Skills 2022: Ireland’s Third ICT Skills Action Plan is a collaborative effort by Government, the higher and further education and training system and industry to meet Ireland’s high level ICT skills needs. The plan has devised measures that will boost the supply of ICT graduates to meet the ambitious level of demand forecast for the coming years. By 2022, the interventions outlined in this plan aim to deliver up to an additional 5,000 graduates per annum through indigenous supply, with the remainder serviced by inward migration.
- Innovation 2020, set the target of increasing 1st year enrolments in PhD and Research Masters courses by 500 by 2000, this was achieved in the 2018.2019 academic year with an additional 530 enrolments compared to the 2013/2014 baseline . Additionally, overall numbers of PhD and Research Masters graduates reached 2,017 in the class of 2019, the highest amount since the class of 2014.
- The Business Expenditure on R&D Survey 2019-20 found that 31.5% of enterprises have indicated they are quite likely or very likely to recruit at PhD level in the next 5 years. Furthermore, 62% of all enterprises have indicated they are quite likely or very likely to recruit at Masters level.
- In the IMD World Talent Rankings 2020, Ireland ranked 9thout of 63 countries for workforce readiness, which encompasses the degree to which education meets the needs of employers, place of STEM in education, languages, availability of skilled labour as well as other factors related to the labour force.
- In last year’s European Innovation Scoreboard, in which Ireland is ranked the 9th most innovative Member State in the EU, Ireland performed well with its skilled workforce. Ireland came 7th overall and higher than the EU average in the Human Resources dimension, which measures the availability of a high-skilled and educated workforce. Within this, Ireland was 7th for New Doctorate Graduates, 2nd for Population completed tertiary education (aged 25-34) and 9th for Lifelong Learning.
We must continue to evolve and improve in order to meet the rapid changes and challenges of the future world of work, and to shape the economy and society that we want to have. I know that my Department, in collaboration with key stakeholders, will continue to do this work, to help ensure that we meet skills needs on an ongoing basis, and to support economic recovery and economic success.
Increasing participation in lifelong learning is a key priority for this Government. The National Skills Strategy 2025 set a target to increase the number of those aged 25-64 engaged in lifelong learning to 10% by 2020 and to 15% by 2025.
The social insurance system is currently used to collect the training levy that resources activity supported through the National Training Fund (NTF). The National Training Fund was established by the National Training Fund Act, 2000 to raise the skills of those in employment, provide training to those who wish to acquire skills for the purposes of taking up employment, and provide information in relation to existing, or likely future, requirements for skills in the economy. This places the Fund at the heart of funding arrangements for lifelong learning.
The NTF is financed via a levy on employers of 1.0% of reckonable earnings in respect of employees in PRSI classes A and H employment. This represents approximately 75% of all insured employees.
Funding from the NTF is allocated by the Minister of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science with the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, in accordance with the provisions of the National Training Fund Act, 2000. The NTF was originally primarily used to support activity through the national network of training centres, but has expanded over time, and now supports a wider skills agenda, including through Higher Education and employer-led provision. Supported by a broader reform programme, the NTF levy increased by 0.3% between 2018 and 2020, allowing an additional €190 million to be invested in key skill priority areas. In 2020 there was an additional €100 million allocated to the NTF as part of the July Jobs Stimulus to help those most affected by the pandemic. This investment has continued into 2021 where a continuation in upskilling and reskilling means the total expenditure from the NTF this year is €741 million.