Ibec’s vision of a Rebooted and Reimagined Ireland

By Gerard Walker

Future Jobs-Skills-Work Insights 


Several thematic policy areas and associated actions are proposed within Ibec's 'Reboot & Reimagine' publication which was launched this week, includes a dedicated section highlighting the importance of education and skills policy.


Focusing on “getting people back to work”, the Ibec report aims to create a sustainable future for Ireland in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. 


The context to the framing of the education and skills policy actions are that the scale of re-skilling, up-skilling and learning requires greater collaboration between business, education, and government to anticipate fast evolving skills requirements. Individuals will need to have a greater capacity for digital skills, complemented with transversal skills and an aptitude for learning.


Given urgency and scale of the unemployment crisis, a major back-to-work effort is required. The focus, according to Ibec, must be on labour market activation, boosting employment and individual employability to support people in getting back to work as quickly as possible. Different industries will recover at a different pace meaning recovery will be incremental and disjointed across the labour market. 


Ireland has a much lower lifelong learning participation rate than other EU member states. Business and government must continue to invest in re-skilling at this critical time despite the uncertainty over learning and training budgets. Ibec research indicates that over 35% businesses are seeking, as a priority, targeted supports for employee up-skilling and retraining to help return the business to pre-crisis level of activity.


The proposed phased education and skills policy actions to boost employability are outlined below. 


Phase 1 Actions required in the next 100 days

  • The priority of the National Training Fund must remain in supporting businesses to engage with education providers to address acute and emerging skills needs and to incentivise higher levels of employee learning and development. Funding for programmes with strong enterprise links, such as Skillnet Ireland, Springboard Plus and the Human Capital Initiative, should be protected.


  • Given the unique constraints faced by SMEs, specific and targeted programmes are necessary for businesses to make use of and develop their people and enhance their management and strategic capability to build stronger indigenous enterprises. 


  • The investment for Generation Apprenticeship should be increased by €40m to €74m per year, to encourage enterprise engagement, reduce on the job training costs and support strategic programme management and innovation.


Phase 2 Actions required by end of 2020


  • Increased skills and competency levels can be achieved with targeted investment in programmes with a particular focus on transversal and digital skills to ensure that individuals are prepared for the convergence of technology and work. 


  • Enhancing the capabilities of the labour market intelligence system will improve labour market signalling and match skills with industry demand. 


  •  Create a lifelong career guidance service which provides business-informed advice to support individuals to make informed career decisions and to undertake relevant up-skilling opportunities with related job opportunities.


  • The €90m TU Transformation Fund and the roadmap outlined in the Technological University Research Network is necessary for post-crisis regional activity and development to ensure enterprise access to innovation spaces, knowledge, and resources.



Phase 3 Actions required by 2023


  • A National Training Voucher Scheme to the value of €350 per employee, will enable enterprise to choose suitable training services from accredited education and training providers. This will empower business-led training and its utility within the business at a critical time.
  • Higher education institutions need a substantial increase in funding of approximately €400m, to boost core and programmatic funding, infrastructure investment, industry-academic research collaboration and to help recover the losses incurred as a result of the crisis.
  • Effective further education programmes with a clear employability focus will require capital investment to trigger a step change in the offering and the environment for further education.
  • Develop digital education capability to include flexible and online learning that provides a personalised and modular approach to gaining skill-based credits.



Key Takeaway


Business and government must continue to invest in re-skilling at this critical time despite the uncertainty over learning and training budgets. The businesses which are most agile, more innovative and those who have embraced technology will recover more quickly. New business models will require new skills; new ways of working and collaborating; and new ways of managing people. The challenge will be to raise skills to higher competency levels to reduce labour marker inequalities and to support business growth and productivity.


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