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Home » Education » How to future-proof your workforce with upskilling programmes

Noreen Fitzpatrick

Employee Development Manager, SOLAS

Ciara Ní Fhloinn

Flexible Learning Manager, SOLAS

In an ever-evolving work environment, staying competitive means continuously upgrading skills. By offering innovative programmes, employers and employees can meet this demand.

In an increasingly fast-paced and evolving working world, businesses must stay ahead of the curve. From technological advancements to evolving market trends, the skills demanded of employees are constantly evolving. This means embracing a culture of continuous learning is imperative.

How to enhance skills and retain talent

Upskilling brings businesses to the next level and can enhance employee performance and satisfaction. In turn, this contributes significantly to talent retention and attraction. As an employer, equipping your workforce with the latest knowledge and skills can help you navigate challenges effectively and sustain long-term growth.

One way to do this is through SOLAS, the state agency responsible for research, planning, funding and coordinating Further Education and Training in Ireland.

Education for all sectors

With 16 education and training boards spread across the country, the state agency caters to the needs of almost 400,000 learners annually. One in ten people aged over 15 in Ireland (over 400,000 people) benefited from Further Education and Training (FET) in 2023, offering a diverse range of programmes from apprenticeships to post-leaving certificate courses.

The Skills to Advance and eCollege programmes serve as the cornerstone for addressing the upskilling needs of both employers and employees across diverse sectors in communities across the island. These initiatives offer a comprehensive suite of high-quality courses and resources tailored to meet the evolving demands of today’s workforce.

Upskilling for job security

With a focus on upskilling and reskilling, Skills to Advance acts as a catalyst for driving individual and organisational growth. From technical competencies to soft skills development, it equips learners with the skills and knowledge needed to thrive in their fields and enhance employability.

Noreen Fitzpatrick, Employee Development Manager at SOLAS, says the scheme was started as a way to protect employees. “In 2019, there were almost 1 million people at work who only had a leaving certificate qualification,” she explains.

“That represented 43% of the workforce at the time. With the rise of automation, new technologies, Covid-19 and Brexit, there was a worry that this cohort may be at risk of job-changing or potentially losing their jobs. So, this policy was brought in to help them reskill to level 5 and level 6 qualifications.

“Level 5 courses are completely subsidised, allowing employees to access them at no cost. For those looking to advance to level 6 qualifications, employers only need to pay a small fee, making it an affordable option for businesses seeking to invest in the development of their workforce.”

With 16 education and training boards spread across the country, the state agency caters to the needs of almost 400,000 learners annually.

Flexible online learning platform

eCollege is an online learning platform that provides a flexible and accessible avenue for individuals seeking to expand their skill sets. With a range of industry-focused courses spanning digital skills, project management, business acumen and sustainability, eCollege caters to the diverse needs and interests of all learners.

Whether it’s an aspiring entrepreneur looking to sharpen their business acumen or a seasoned professional aiming to stay abreast of the latest technological trends, it offers a wealth of resources to support continuous learning.

“eCollege is there for absolutely everyone over the age of 18, whether you are employed or unemployed,” says Ciara Ní Fhloinn, Flexible Learning Manager at SOLAS. “It’s free, and these courses are designed to be completed part-time. If you are employed, it can easily work around your working schedule. This is good news for employers, too.”

Seize the opportunities

These programmes close the divide between education and employment by providing practical, real-world skills and working closely with employers to pinpoint areas of skill deficiency.

As the pace gets faster and industries advance, Ireland’s workforce is poised to meet the challenges of the future, seize opportunities and most importantly, stay ahead of the curve.

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