Wednesday, 13 October 2021
Department of Education and Skills
Third Level Education
168. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to ensure continued access to third level for all students seeking to avail of third-level education; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50141/21]
Equity of Access to Higher Education continues to be a national priority for the Government and the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science. The Programme for Government reflects the importance of supporting learners at risk of education disadvantage and learners with special education needs in higher education. The vision of National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education 2015-2021 is that the student body entering, participating in, and completing higher education at all levels reflects the diversity and social mix of Ireland’s population.
Work on the development of the next National Access Plan (NAP) 2022 - 2026 is currently underway. The consultation process, which closed on 18th June 2021, invited all interested parties to make their views known on this matter and other matters related to access to higher education particularly for groups who are underrepresented in the higher education population. One-to-one stakeholder meetings around the specific target groups to be supported for the period of the next NAP are currently underway. Colleagues in my Department are working closely with the HEA on the development of the new Plan with the intention of publishing the plan in the coming months.
My Department is committed to the continued the roll-out of supports for students and targeted initiatives to support delivery of the vision and targets within the National Access Plan.
Apart from the student grant and dedicated access supports it is important to note the range of additional supports which have been put in place for students as part of Budget 2021 and as part of the Government's COVID return to education packages in 2020 and 2021;
- The level of core funding available in the Student Assistance Fund for 2020 and 2021 was doubled;
- €1.9m in the form of a once-off COVID-19 contingency fund to enable HEIs deliver local COVID-19 responses to support disadvantaged students in 2020 and 2021;
- The level of funding for the 1916 Bursary Fund (also known as PATH 2) increased to €5.2 million per annum, which will provide bursaries for the most disadvantaged students within National Access Plan target groups in the country;
- An additional €20 million in funding for SUSI in 2021 to cover increased applications to the scheme;
- €6 million allocated to enhance SUSI support for postgraduates;
- €15 million scheme in 2020 to support access to laptops and digital devices
- Separate capital funding has issued to HEIs in the form of an IT equipment grant and minor works grants, these can be used to address laptop and digitial device requirements for students in 2021.
- €50 million was provided financial assistance to full time third level students in recognition of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on this group.
- €300,000 has been secured through the Dormant Accounts Fund for targeted supports to address the implications of COVID-19 on Traveller participation in higher education.
The objectives of the National Access Plan are supported by a range of interventions and programmes:
- Programme for Access to Higher Education (PATH) which comprises dedicated funding to support access to higher education and consists of three strands focussed on increasing the participation of under-represented groups in higher education. The PATH fund has a current investment envelope of €40.4 million over the period 2016 to 2022, across the three strands which are currently supporting access to initial teacher education, enables the award of bursaries to the most socio economically disadvantaged students and through the Higher Education Access Fund is supporting institutional capacity in developing regional and community partnership strategies for increasing access to higher education.
- Student Assistance Fund includes ring-fenced funding €1m for part-time students.
- Fund for Students with Disabilities (FSD) – over €9m in funding every year covering both higher and further education sectors. The purpose of the Fund for Students with Disabilities is to provide funding to higher and further education institutions to assist them in offering supports and services to eligible students with disabilities so that they can access, fully participate in and successfully complete their chosen course of study. Since 2018 the fund covers part-time students.
- A study commissioned by the Higher Education Authority on the challenges facing mature students in participating in higher education is nearing completion and will be considered in the context of the new National Access Plan currently under development.
- The Action Plan for Increasing Traveller Participation in Higher Education 2019-2021 was launched in 2019 and its aim is to advance Traveller participation in higher education within the context of approaches on retention and transition of Travellers across the education spectrum.
- Persons in the protection process (asylum and subsidiary protection) or leave to remain process are not eligible to access the statutory based SUSI grant scheme. However, the administratively based Student Support Scheme provides supports along similar lines to the SUSI grant scheme and is available to persons in the asylum, subsidiary protection or leave to remain process.
Fostering Inclusion is one of the three core pillars around which the Further Education and Training Strategy (FET) 2020-2024 is built. The FET sector is committed to increasing levels of inclusion through the provision of high quality, more accessible and flexible education and training programmes and supports suited to the identified needs of individuals, with the aim of enabling every citizen to participate fully in society.
FET provision is largely free or heavily subsidised. The only fees are PLC fees which are a nominal €200 per student (not including those entitled to a medical card or SUSI grant). About 40% of students pay the fee. Fees are collected at the start of the academic year.
Apprentices are paid an allowance equivalent to their on-the-job wages for periods spent in education and training institutions. In addition, unemployed participants on training courses are paid a training allowance by ETBs based on their DEASP payment. In the case of training for unemployed people, these allowances are integral parts of the programmes, as (i) they facilitate the participation of individuals who would not otherwise be in a position to take up training and (ii) they ensure that only individuals who are active participants in the training are in receipt of the allowances. Your local Intreo Office can advise if you are entitled to any allowances whilst on a training course.
In addition, accommodation, meal and travel allowances are paid to learners to assist them with the cost of actual attendance on some courses.
In the context of Budget 2022 I am currently giving consideration to the scope, to commence the process of making prioritised improvements to the student grant scheme for the academic year 2022/2023. This would allow early progress in addressing key themes emerging from the Review's consultations and research and recent trends in the cost of living. I am also giving consideration to the ringfencing of some funding for supporting the implementation of the new National Access Plan when published in the coming months.
169. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the degree to which the higher level education sector is in discussion with business and enterprise with a view to matching requirements in the workplace with suitable graduates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50142/21]
My Department places a fundamental focus on working with the Higher, as well as Further, education sector, to ensure delivery of suitable graduates to match what business and enterprise needs and requirements in the workplace.
A core focus of the Department's Statement of Strategy is to enable individuals to access the skills required to progress in a way that meets the needs of our economy as it evolves and recovers.
Ireland has an advanced system of skills provision, across Further and Higher Education, lifelong learning and human capital development, which is agile and responsive to changes in the world of work. Central to this is a partnership approach – partnership between the Further and Higher Education system, Government and industry. Some of the mechanisms enabling this include the National Skills Council (NSC) , the Regional Skills Fora, the National Training Fund Advisory Group (NTFAG) and the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN).
The National Skills Council, launched in April 2017, is made up of representatives from public and private organisations, and is the high-level platform for interactive engagement between enterprise, education and training providers and government, seeking to advise on prioritisation of skills needs and challenges in an overarching way. The Council is currently chaired by Bob Savage, Vice President, Regional Chief Information Officer for EMEA and Cork Site Leader Dell Technologies.
The Regional Skills Fora, established in 2016 , bring people together at local and regional level, to identify, interrogate and validate skills needs, and to ensure that employers / enterprise are linked to the right places, to get responses needed, meaning matching of need with provision is taking place on an ongoing basis and in a manner which is highly tailored. The Fora provide hugely valuable bottom-up information and insights, to ensure that we have skills policies and approaches, at national level, which are evidence-informed and serving their purpose.
The National Training Fund Advisory Groupbrings together stakeholders from the enterprise sector, my Department, and bodies who have a strategic and oversight role in delivery of skills provision to optimise enterprise engagement in the in the work of the Fund to upskill and reskill those in employment and preparing for employment, and support lifelong learning.
The enterprise based research of the Expert Group on Future Skills Needshelps inform the National Skills Council’s work in prioritising skills needs across the economy, and with it the allocation of resources across the education and training system. The EGFSN’s studies involve close and comprehensive consultation with the enterprise base, in order to identify both the nature and quantity of current and future skills needs across specific sectors and occupations. As part of the evidence base for policy making, the EGFSN’s work in turn helps maximise the alignment of education and training provision with enterprise skills needs.
Our skills policies continue to be developed taking into account so-called "mega-trends" in the labour market, the impact of automation and digitisation, the essential need for digital literacy and the core role of transversal skills in the labour market.
My Department will continue to collaborate closely with the Higher Education sector, business and enterprise, and indeed all key stakeholders, to evolve and improve in order to meet the changes and challenges of the future world of work, and to leverage the opportunities to shape the economy and society that individuals want and need.
170. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the extent to which male and female students continued to be attracted in equal proportions to participation in the sciences; if a corrective measure or inducement is needed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50143/21]
There are a number of key strategies in place at all levels to ensure we meet existing and future skills demands, including in the area of the sciences. These include policies designed to ensure a pipeline of suitably qualified science graduates, and initiatives to equip young people and the working population more generally with the skills and capacity to meet these demands.
These strategies and initiatives include: the National Skills Strategy 2025; Technology Skills 2022; Springboard+; the Human Capital Initiative and Modular Skills Provision.
Maintaining and developing a strong supply of STEM graduates is critical to Ireland’s growth as a world-class centre of innovation and research. Ensuring that we have good gender balance in STEM is a key part of meeting this supply. It is also a worthwhile policy goal in its own right, given all that we know about the importance of diversity in STEM, as well as our desire to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to pursue courses of study that will interest and engage them, and give them the skills to pursue a productive career.
This is an issue which requires action at all stages of the educational and career journey. Getting a good gender balance in the higher education system is an issue depends on people being engaged and interested in STEM at a much earlier stage in their education.
The STEM Education Policy Statement was published in 2017 and seeks to raise awareness and interest in STEM. The first pillar of the strategy is "Nurturing learner engagement and participation" and focuses on increasing the uptake of STEM related subjects for learners of all backgrounds, ability and gender. The strategy targets a 40% increase in the number of females taking STEM subjects for Leaving Certificate
On 18thMay Minister Foley and I announced a new partnership to support education and public engagement in STEM. This partnership contributes funding to projects under the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Discover Programme, which aims to support effective interventions in early STEM education, help students engage with science subjects at an early age and foster interest in STEM careers.
On 30 June 2021, I co-hosted an event aimed at advancing and connecting women in science, technology, engineering and mathematical disciplines.The event, an industry event with Women in Technology & Science (WITS), brought industry and academic experts together to discuss how to support women into and during their STEM career, and to consider how to develop and advance this into the future.
The event featured four spotlight discussions:
- CONVENE: An Accelerated Skills Hub for Aspiring Female Leaders in Digital Transformation, which aims to address the ‘Glass Ceiling’ challenge - increasing the percentage of women transitioning from middle to senior management roles.
- Women Returners Digital Hub, which focused on work to develop an online centralised platform which will support women at all digital literacy levels and act as a portal for companies to access a new talent pipeline. The platform will provide free guidance and toolkits to IT returners, new IT entrants and organisations to provide accessible pathways to restart and develop their career in tech.
- A Framework to Identify High-Potential Women & Support them onto the First-Rung of the Leadership Ladder. This session heard from Engineers Ireland, UL and ESB, sharing best practice and discussing a comprehensive framework to identify and support women onto the first rung of the leadership ladder
- STEM Skills Passport For Inclusion. This spotlight discussed a potential project to meaningfully support 1000 working-class girls to progress into STEM courses and careers, with mentoring, teaching, course mapping and work experience.
The number of students studying STEM at third level has been growing, with the number of yearly graduates in the field of natural sciences, mathematics and statistics increasing by almost 1,240 between 2014 and 2020, from 5,474 to 6,713.
The number of yearly enrolments in the field of natural sciences, mathematics and statistics has increased from 22,751 in 2018 to 24,512 in 2020. Female participation accounts for over 50% of these yearly figures.
Under 2020/2021 there was a total of 24,512 enrolments in the field of natural sciences, mathematics and statistics, 13,099 were female and 11,375 were male, the other 28 were non-binary or undeclared.Please find attached tables for further information.
More widely, the promotion of gender equality in higher education is also critical. This is an area that I have prioritised, including through support for initiatives including the National Gender Equality Dashboard for Higher Education Institutions; the Athena SWAN Charter and the Senior Academic Leadership Initiative which is increasing the number of women involved in decision making roles in higher education.
My Department will continue to engage with the Department of Education on their STEM Education Policy Statement to ensure that learners are given every opportunity to engage with the sciences, and ensure that pipeline of suitably qualified science graduates is maintained.
|2020/21 Enrolments by Broad Field of Study / Gender||Female||Male||Non-binary||Undeclared||Total|
|Agriculture, forestry, fisheries and veterinary||2,104||1,909||7||4,020|
|Arts and humanities||20,655||13,116||86||40||33,897|
|Business, administration and law||27,723||26,915||55||13||54,706|
|Engineering, manufacturing and construction||6,305||21,552||18||7||27,882|
|Generic programmes and qualifications||994||764||1,758|
|Health and welfare||32,611||9,839||11||10||42,471|
|Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs)||3,037||11,956||19||13||15,025|
|Natural sciences, mathematics and statistics||13,099||11,375||28||10||24,512|
|Social sciences, journalism and information||9,491||5,230||21||8||14,750|
Enrolments by field of natural sciences, mathematics and statistics
171. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the efforts being made to ensure the availability of an adequate supply of graduates at third and fourth level in order to attract inward investment here in the specialised areas of medical science; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50144/21]
172. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the extent to which adequate resources and expertise remain available to ensure sufficient emphasis and investment in medical science here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50145/21]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 171 and 172 together.
There are a number of key strategies in place at all levels to ensure we meet existing and future skills demands, including in the area of medical science. These include policies designed to ensure a pipeline of suitably qualified science and technical graduates, and initiatives to equip young people and the working population more generally with the skills and capacity to meet these demands. These strategies and initiatives include: the National Skills Strategy 2025; Technology Skills 2022; Springboard+; the Human Capital Initiative and the July Stimulus package.
I am keenly aware of how crucial STEM education more broadly is to Ireland’s growth as a world-class centre of innovation and research. On 18th May Minister Foley and I announced a new partnership to support education and public engagement in STEM. This partnership contributes funding to projects under the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Discover Programme, which aims to support effective interventions in early STEM education, help students engage with science subjects at an early age and foster interest in STEM careers.
The number of students studying STEM at third level has been growing, with the number of yearly graduates in the field of natural sciences, mathematics and statistics increasing by 1,000 between 2014 and 2019, from 5,470 to 6,470. My Department will continue to engage with the Department of Education on their STEM Education Policy Statement to ensure that learners are given every opportunity to engage with the sciences, and ensure that pipeline of suitably qualified medical science graduates is maintained.
In respect of provision of specific courses, Higher Education Institutions are autonomous institutions under their relevant legislation. That means that they are academically independent and entitled to decide on their particular academic course content and provision.
173. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the degree to which his Department continues to liaise with the business sector with a view to maximise the use of innovation in manufacturing, marketing and services in Ireland in the future with particular reference to the need to achieve standards and opportunities on par with the best globally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50146/21]
A vibrant enterprise sector is a prerequisite for a strong, advanced economy, and a strong economy in turn provides the foundation for a progressive, sustainable and inclusive society. The enterprise sector provides quality employment which is important for our standard of living and inclusivity.
The enterprise sector is hugely important in driving innovation in this country. An estimated 75% of all Research, Development and Innovation (RDI) expenditure in Ireland is by private enterprises.
Results from the 2019-2020 Business Expenditure on Research and Development survey show that almost €3.26bn was spent on RDI activities by enterprises in Ireland in 2019, an increase of 46% since 2015, the year in which Ireland’s previous research and innovation strategy Innovation 2020began. These investments have been instrumental in Ireland’s economic recovery and growth in the past decade, and will continue to be of critical importance as we face our current and future challenges.
Productivity is the primary determinant of long-term growth. Investment in knowledge-based capital, and innovation in particular, drives productivity through new, higher value-added products and services, and more efficient business processes. The value of services in the Irish economy exceeds that of manufacturing, and consequently investment in knowledge-based capital is increasingly important for driving future economic growth. This economic reality means that Ireland must be among the top-ranked nations for innovation if it is to realise its potential.
To that end, my department officials and I have worked to continue to foster and develop existing links with the enterprise sector. Public consultation on the new R&I strategy was held in June & July earlier this year. In total, we received over 115 submissions to the online public consultation from a range of stakeholders, including business representation groups, companies, and individuals in the enterprise sector. In June, my Department hosted and I attended an online stakeholder event where a wide range of stakeholders from across Ireland’s R&I system came together to discuss the issues raised in the consultation paper and inform the strategy. My Department has also held a number of targeted meetings with key stakeholders over recent months. Maintaining links with enterprise – both indigenous and FDI– ensures we can keep up to date with domestic needs and global trends.
This year I have held several constructive meetings with industry leaders and enterprise representative groups and will continue to work with them in driving Ireland’s vision to become a Global Innovation Leader. We also closely liaise with our colleagues in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and its agencies to ensure a consistent approach in aiding the enterprise sector to increase its innovative activities.
My Department’s agency SFI has developed a suite of dynamic funding programmes which facilitate industry/academic collaboration. These funding programmes enable companies and academics to work together on specific programmes of research to address industry needs, support technology transfer and grow skills and expertise. Developing its industry facing programmes to deliver significant public/private partnership, increase collaboration, support FDI and engage SMEs in research and innovation across all sectors will continue to be a priority for the agency as it embeds within my Department.
The manufacturing sector is one in which SFI has already made significant investments which involve industry participation. One of those investments is CONFIRM, the SFI Research Centre for Smart Manufacturing. The Centre very recently opened its new, cutting edge headquarters in Limerick. This facility includes a testbed to house Ireland’s future factory demonstrators, an innovative virtual reality cave, 10 Gbps internet access, Ireland’s first private 5G digital manufacturing network and a digital manufacturing lab with 3D printing and non-contact 3D part-scanning facilities. The headquarters will be a space for industry to come together with academic researchers. It is a significant milestone – heightening Ireland’s position as a leader in smart manufacturing.
Other significant investments in the manufacturing area include IFORM, the SFI Research Centre in Advanced Manufacturing. Like CONFIRM, IFORM is a world leading SFI Research Centre with deep industry collaboration and co-investment. IFORM is delivering the next level of understanding and control for complex manufacturing processes. Ireland is already recognised as having one of the most advanced manufacturing sectors in Europe. These, along with other investments by SFI will support Ireland to become the leading digital manufacturing powerhouse globally.
Access to highly skilled graduates is a critical success factor for businesses in Ireland. SFI has established six SFI Centres for Research Training. These Centres will support advanced skills and training (PhDs) in collaboration with industry, for the new economy. The six current SFI Centres for Research Training support over 700 PhD students in ICT and Data Analytics. Future skills can be addressed through further development of this programme in other areas, including Innovation in Business Services and Advanced Manufacturing.
174. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to ensure that in future years the effect of Covid-19 will not materially affect the supply of qualified academic and technical graduates to the workplace; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50147/21]
The challenge to deliver adequate numbers of suitably qualified academic and technical graduates to meet the demands of the country is a fundamental focus for the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science.
The higher and further education sectors responded in an agile fashion to the challenges of Covid-19 and continuity for the most part was maintained throughout the pandemic. Institutions and providers carefully balanced necessary onsite activities with prevailing public health advice.
In response to the urgent need for activation, upskilling and reskilling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, SOLAS – in partnership with my Department, ETBI and the sixteen ETBs, and with input from the DSP, the DETE and industry representatives – has developed the Skills to Compete initiative. This initiative is delivered through ETBs, including through contracted training, and works in tandem with INTREO offices, Regional Skills Fora, and Enterprise Ireland to effectively target individuals who may have been displaced from their employment as a result of Covid-19. Courses offered under the initiative are built around three key priorities: delivering the essential skills required for modern workplaces; building strong digital skills; and developing the specific vocational skills to secure opportunities in growing sectors and occupations.
More than 15,000 enrolled on the Education and Training board led Skills to Compete initiative to date with funding for further places secured. The remainder of the places will be taken up over the course of 2021. The establishment of an oversight group with DSP, DFHERIS, ETBI & SOLAS representatives has strengthened planning and further definition of programmes.
The Action Plan for Apprenticeship 2021-2025 was launched on 19th April 2021, and it sets out a five year strategy to deliver on the programme for Government commitment of reaching 10,000 new apprentice registrations per year by 2025 and which will ensure we have a modern apprenticeship system that is reflective of Irish society and supports both learners and employers along the way. There are currently 62 different apprenticeships leading to qualifications at level 5-10 on the National Framework of Qualifications, with over 7,500 employers employing almost 22,500 apprentices.
175. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to specifically target the areas of key demand in the economy with particular reference to science, information and communications technology and engineering; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50148/21]
The further and higher education sectors have a number of key strategies in place at all levels to ensure that the educational opportunities being offered specifically target the areas of key demand in the economy. These include policies designed to ensure a pipeline of suitably qualified higher education graduates and apprentices, and initiatives to equip young people and the working population more generally with the skills and capacity to meet these demands.
The identification of skills priorities to help inform and shape planning for graduate output from higher and further education, including in relation to apprenticeships, is guided by the National Skills Strategy. The Strategy provided for the establishment of the skills architecture that we have today, the National Skills Council and the nine Regional Skills Fora. Underpinning both the skills agenda and architecture are the skills forecasting and intelligence systems, made up of the contribution of a number of public bodies including, at present, the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, the Skills and Labour Market Research Unit in Solas and the statistical analysis and assessment carried out by the HEA. The detailed research and analyses carried out by these bodies feed into the work of the Skills Council in defining the priorities and delivering responses in the area of skills needs.
Two key initiatives in the higher education system which ensure that places are funded in courses in identified areas of skills need are Springboard + and the Human Capital Initiative (HCI). Springboard+ 2021 was launched on 14th June 2021. As a result of multi-annual funding of graduate conversion courses, there is a combined total of 13,444 places on 408 courses available in the 2021/22 academic year under Springboard+ 2021 and HCI Pillar 1. This year, there is a broad range of courses in Engineering, ICT and Science. There are 46 Springboard+ 2021 courses with 1,657 places in total in engineering. In ICT and ICT-related areas are there are 81 Springboard+ 2021 courses with 2,910 places and in Science and Science related areas, there are 14 Springboard+ 2021 courses with 354 places.
A broad range of engineering courses are provided through Springboard+, with approximately 27% of all places falling within the engineering, manufacturing and construction category, 29% in ICT and 4% in Science related disciplines.
Under HCI Pillar 1, places are available on courses in a wide range of skills areas, including artificial intelligence, smart factory technology, sustainable energy, medical device technology and cybersecurity. In 2021, year 2 of the Pillar 1 programme funding is being provided to create 1,768 conversion course places. 432 (24%) of places on Pillar 1 are in the engineering, manufacturing, and construction category, with a further 710 (40%) in ICT. 14 HCI Pillar 1 courses are in science related disciplines offering 323 places (18%).
The new Action Plan for Apprenticeship 2021-2025 which was launched on 19th April last sets out new ways of structuring, funding, and promoting apprenticeships to make apprenticeship accessible to employers and learners. The actions set out in the plan seek to deliver on a target of 10,000 apprenticeship registrations per annum by 2025. A key strength of the apprenticeship model, is that it is a demand-led approach to meeting workforce and skill requirements in our economy. Therefore the number of places is determined by employers with off the job training delivered to all registered apprentices.
There are currently 62 different apprenticeships leading to qualifications at level 5-10 on the National Framework of Qualifications, with over 7,500 employers employing almost 22,500 apprentices.
Of the 62 apprenticeship programmes, 25 are craft apprenticeships with a standardised seven phase programme of on-the-job and off-the-job training. Off-the-job training is delivered in phases 2, 4 and 6 of a craft apprenticeship.
The expansion of apprenticeship across all sectors of the economy has widened the range of impact of apprenticeship in areas of skills shortage such as Engineering, Retrofitting, Technology Skills, Engineering and FinTech. Under action 5.1 of the plan the online visibility of apprenticeship engagement and apprenticeship development processes for employers/sectors who wish to assess the potential for new apprenticeship development will be increased. Applications for new apprenticeship development are now open on an ongoing basis, allowing employers to progress the development of programmes in response to emerging skills needs on an as-needed basis in all sectors including engineering, ICT and Science.
My Department will continue working with enterprise agencies and industry groups, as well as the higher education institutions, to assess the future demand for higher education graduates and apprentices as well as our ability to meet this demand, and ensure we are prepared for the challenges ahead.
176. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the number of new educational programmes and qualifications in the past three years developed to reflect the demands of the workplace; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50149/21]
Quality and Qualifications Ireland approves programmes offered at a variety of schools, colleges and further and higher education and training institutions. Since 1st September 2018 it has approved 141 new programmes and revalidated 59 programmes. I understand that the universities and their associated colleges have 48 degrees on offer through the CAO this year that have been introduced since 2018. There would also be a range of new postgraduate provision in the universities in that timeframe. The further and higher education sectors are responsive to changes in the world of work and there are a range of specific programmes supporting this collaboration.
The Action Plan for Apprenticeship seeks to deliver on a target of 10,000 apprenticeship registrations per annum by 2025. 37 new programmes have been introduced since 2016, 17 programmes are in development and a number of other potential apprenticeships are at an exploratory stage.
Within the Higher Education Sector, Springboard+ and the Human Capital Initiative provide specific targeted provision aimed at skills needs. A key objective of Springboard+ is to enhance collaboration between enterprise and higher education to design and deliver relevant courses that support job creation and expansion in line with the Government’s Future Jobs Ireland, National Skills Strategy, and National Development Plan. Courses proposed for inclusion in Springboard+ can be in all skills categories where strong and clear evidence of a regional or national need is articulated with evidenced enterprise support. Providers are advised to consider the key areas of digital skills, transversal skills, management and leadership skills and the workplace of the future.
The Human Capital Initiative has a strong focus on innovation and agility, to enable us to future proof our graduates, and ensure that our graduates and the higher education system as a whole are in a position to respond to the constantly evolving skills needs of the economy. HCI Pillar 1 offers full-time conversion programmes to candidates (who hold a level 8 qualification or equivalent) to upskill for future job prosperity in areas such as; ICT, Engineering, Data Analytics and Technology. For the 2020/21 academic year there are 13,444 places in 408 courses under Springboard+ 2021 and HCI Pillar 1.
Within the further education sector, SOLAS works with Education and Training Boards, Regional Skills Fora and local enterprises across Ireland to develop FET programmes that are responsive to the rapidly evolving skills, social and economic landscape unique to each region. This work is supported by the SOLAS Skills and Labour Market Research Unit, the National Skills Council) and the National Training Fund Advisory Group.
177. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if he and his Department have identified specific issues likely to contribute to further improvement and achievement in the further and higher educational sectors with a view to establishing a reputation equal to the best globally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50150/21]
The establishment of the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science recognises the importance of the further and higher education sectors as an engine for economic growth and an instrument to promote diversity and enhance social cohesion. My Department’s Statement of Strategy, published in March 2021 centres around strategic goals of developing talent and skills, innovation, inclusion, and positioning Ireland globally as a leading knowledge economy.
The Statement of Strategy sets out the Department’s ambitions across a range of issues including:
- improving the transition to further and higher education for school leavers
- implementing a new 10-year strategy to improve literacy, numeracy and digital skills to ensure nobody is left behind
- reforming skills training and investing in upskilling and reskilling opportunities in areas of economic growth including in the area of green and digital skills
- overhauling the Apprenticeship system and developing a new plan to increase apprenticeships to 10,000 every year
- putting in place a sustainable approach to higher education funding
- introducing new legislation to reform higher education governance
- undertaking a national engagement on research and science and develop a renewed national strategy to succeed Innovation 2020
- implementing a new Access Plan for higher education and reviewing the Student Grant Scheme
- growing our international reach and position Ireland as a leader in higher education and research
- supporting the establishment of Technological Universities across the country to improve access to higher education and to act as anchors for regional and national innovation and growth and
- advancing North South co-operation in higher education and research.
Significant progress has been made on a range of these goals with the establishment of three technological universities to date, and two further applications currently under consideration; the publication of the Apprenticeship Action Plan and the publication of the Adult Literacy for Life Strategy. The development of the next National Access Plan (NAP) 2022 - 2026 is currently underway while the review of the Student Grant Scheme is at an advanced stage.
A report on the future sustainability of further and higher education will be considered by Government in the near future.
Together these actions will support the development of our further and higher education and research systems to support people in reaching their full potential and to create value, prosperity, resilience and a cohesive, sustainable and vibrant society.