Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science
The world of work is changing and the education system is adapting to keep pace.
The challenges of digitalisation and automation are colliding with the everyday realities posed by the Ukraine war, the climate crisis and the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. These pose seismic difficulties for small and medium enterprises in particular. They also raise challenges for our education system.
But with every challenge comes an opportunity, a chance to do better and to be better.
The value of education
Education shapes a person’s life: their opportunities, their sense of wellbeing and their skills. It is also a gateway to employment, a good career and a better future. We must develop a flexible and resilient education system. One that can adapt to change. One that can prepare students – of all ages – to help tackle societal challenges.
That is why this Department was created – to address education inequality, but also to create a synergy between education and the needs of our economy and society. That is why we are pursuing the Technological University agenda – bringing third level education to every region in the country. Because packing your bags and heading to a big city for four years is simply not for everyone.
Education shapes a person’s life: their opportunities, their sense of wellbeing and their skills.
Reforming third level education
Earlier this month, I published a new plan to fund third level education. This plan is centred on investment, but also reform. As part of a €307 million package, we will create better pathways between further and higher education and will seek to make third level more accessible for people seeking part-time education, or blended learning.
This is the future of education. An education system without walls, without barriers, accessible anywhere, at any time.
I will also be shortly bringing much-needed proposals to Government on how Ireland can increase its participation in lifelong learning by creating a system that works for the student. One of my priorities since the Department was established has been to rebalance and link up the education and training systems.
Investment in skills
At the end of last year, I commissioned a review by the OECD to comprehensively review Ireland’s Skills Strategy. I impressed upon the Secretary General of the OECD the importance of this review for lifelong learning, meeting the needs of employers, and ensuring every person in this country has the opportunity to upskill and reskill as they go through life.
Skills are an investment. Education is an investment. We are investing in both to ensure we are ready for the world of work and the jobs of tomorrow.