Future proofing of skills is crucial - summary of the Future Jobs Summit



Discussions held at the Future Jobs Summit in Dublin last month (November 25th) will provide input to a Future Jobs Programme - Preparing for Tomorrows Economy, to be launched by the Government early in the New Year.

Speakers and delegates at the summit included a broad range of key stakeholders from Government, including Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, education, business and student representatives. IITD CEO Sinead Heneghan was also in attendance as the Future Skills Programmes will have particular relevance for IITD members.

The Summit took place against a background of international complexities including Brexit, increased international protectionism, and international tax reform. The changing business environment and technological innovation is presenting challenges but also new possibilities. Certain job roles will disappear or be re-defined and new jobs will arise requiring new and different skillsets. 

The Future Jobs programme will prioritise cross-government actions from 2019 onwards to ensure that Ireland will remain a leading and advanced economy succeeding internationally. The aim of this whole of Government approach is to enhance productivity, ensure quality and sustainable jobs and build a resilient and innovative economy.


The development and implementation of Future Jobs is being jointly led by the Department of the Taoiseach and the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation. Future Jobs is organised around five pillars. Breakout sessions with various Ministers were held around these themes and the outcomes presented back at plenary. These are:

Improving productivity, particularly in small and medium-sized enterprises
Innovation and technical change
Enhancing skills and developing and attracting talent
Increasing participation in the labour force; and 
Transitioning to a low carbon economy

The Taoiseach in his introductory speech highlighted the fact that if countries/regions do not reform, then they will be left behind. Ireland’s high productivity levels also masks under performance and increasing productivity is important for the quality of jobs in the future. He highlighted the importance of more attractive family friendly workplaces. He also referenced that the higher level of taxation kicks in too soon and that this is putting Ireland at a disadvantage. This is especially relevant for the labour market participation of women returners who have a partner at work, and where 52% of earned income can be taken between tax and PRSI deductions. The Taoiseach highlighted the importance of Ireland 2040 investment to support sustainable quality jobs. 

Key Plenary speakers at the Summit included Mr Luiz de Mello, Director OCED. He highlighted the growing productivity gaps between firms at the global frontier and those being left behind. He also stated that management skills can improve through lifelong learning but that this is relatively low in Ireland. Also, that there is a low uptake of supply chain management technology in Ireland (only 15% of firms), compared to other countries. Finally, that the level of business dynamism in Ireland (a measure of forms birth rates and exit rates) could be improved. 

Ms Julie Spillane, Accenture, highlighted how rapidly technological change is impacting on the future nature of work, with implications for workforce dynamics and need for ongoing upskilling as the pace of skills obsolescence increases. At the same time human skills are even more important in this digital age, including empathy, social skills, adaptability, complex problem solving. She also highlighted the importance of lifelong learning to avoid a digital divide, and the need to attract and retain hard to reach people in the labour force including women returners. There was also a need to rethink traditional learning systems.

IITD will keep members updated on the Progress of the Future Jobs Programme.

After the Summit, Sinead Heneghan said: “The future proofing of skills is crucial. Occupations are becoming more knowledge-based, requiring an increasing breath of knowledge; rising technical, qualification, and regulatory requirements; and continual learning.  There is an increasing emphasis on generic skills in both new and existing jobs. These include leadership, communication, teamwork, design and innovation, customer service, and conceptual skills such as problem-solving, and learning to learn. Technical skills will need to be supplemented with strong social, creative and collaboration skills.

"Among other goals, Ireland’s current and future skills provision needs to be aligned to enterprise needs to improve enterprise performance and individual’s employment prospects. It is necessary to expand and develop new apprenticeship pathways as an alternative career pathway for both young and mature persons.

“The attraction and retention of talent, continual professional development, increasing labour force participation and increasing out levels of lifelong learning are all key to building a future skill supply pipeline. 

“The IITD and its members are fully supportive of the goals of the Future Jobs Programme and will are willing to provide valuable insights and learning from members into the successful development and implementation of the programme.”
A report on the discussions that took place at the Future Jobs summit is available at www.dbei.gov.ie/futurejobs. The website also contains the presentations by the two keynote speakers, Mr Luiz De Mello, OECD, and Julie Spillane, Accenture.





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