Professor Lisa Looney
Vice President for Academic Affairs and Registrar, Dublin City University
Chief Operations Officer, The FinTech Corridor
Director of Digital Talent Programme, Fundació Mobile World Capital Foundation
Forging meaningful connections between businesses in Ireland and educational institutions helps address critical industry needs, develop purposeful networks and boost competitiveness.
Digitalisation has enabled Higher Education Institutions (HEI) to make huge strides in the development and delivery of relevant higher education, states Professor Lisa Looney, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Registrar of Dublin City University (DCU).
“By leveraging digital advancements, we are transforming many aspects of the student experience, such as enhanced collaboration in courses between academic experts and students; providing flexible learning opportunities; access to industry-informed and digitally enhanced learning resources,” she says.
Short courses powered by the latest technologies
All students and learners — from full-time students to part-time and post-experience learners — can engage in a suite of micro-credentials or short courses. “We are supporting students to connect with their peers, collaborate and create networks while learning. We utilise some of the latest technologies, such as augmented and virtual reality, to provide dynamic and professional learning experiences,” explains Professor Looney.
Modern education to fill digital skills gaps
DigiAdvance is an EU-funded project, under the Digital Europe Programme. Led by DCU, it brings together three HEIs from the European Consortium and three industry partners from Ireland, Spain and Portugal.
Professor Looney says: “We aim to provide industry-informed and academically sound short courses to bridge the digital skills gaps for SMEs. We will ensure they have the necessary digital skills to compete in their sectors.”
Hilary Moran, Chief Operations Officer at The FinTech Corridor believes that fruitful partnerships that bridge the gap between industry and academia can address the skills gap. “Creating that collaborative environment is hugely important to develop a highly skilled workforce, grow a business and improve employability,” she says.
Alongside digital skills, soft skills are essential for success in any digital transformation.
Employee and employer benefits
As a partner of DigiAdvance, the FinTech Corridor provides opportunities for upskilling and reskilling in the fintech sector, creating a win-win situation for both employees looking to advance their careers and companies seeking to fill skill gaps.
Courses will align with industry needs in the areas of fintech, machine learning, blockchain, website and mobile app development and cybersecurity. “We are doing a deep dive into finding out what is really needed by industry and SMEs — not what we think they need,” says Professor Looney. “Short courses will also reflect local and professional realities for SMEs. For instance, by being delivered in local languages — English, Spanish and Portuguese — to facilitate participation.”
To develop new skills, courses must be accessible and flexible. “There’s been a huge uptake on micro-credentials,” adds Moran. “It allows students to test the waters and saves employers from having to allocate years to long-term courses. We’ve seen great success with our 12-week courses.”
Soft skills combined with reskilling
Alongside digital skills, soft skills are essential for success in any digital transformation, argues Jordi Arrufí, Director of Digital Talent Programme at Mobile World Capital Barcelona (MWCapital) — a DigiAdvance industry partner. “Soft skills have been identified as priorities for reskilling,” says Arrufí.
According to the World Economic Forum, soft skills required include analytical thinking, creative thinking, leadership and social influence, programming and technological literacy. MWCapital is a public-private institution with a learning platform aiming to boost market competitiveness to address the digital skills gap by attracting new professionals to the market.
“Reskilling promotes a culture of lifelong learning and curiosity to keep up with the rapid pace of technological change, both in society and within companies,” explains Arrufí. “Our role is to act as a market catalyst by weaving alliances with various organisations that make it possible to generate innovation and position Barcelona as a reference city on a digital level,” he adds.
Fulfilling the need for digital competence
With these programmes and short courses dedicated to reskilling and upskilling, industry and academia can help develop the skills needed for digital growth. “DigiAdvance members are leveraging our combined expertise of pedagogy, discipline expertise, technological innovation and industry know-how to provide digitally enhanced, bespoke short-form learning to the highest standards,” concludes Professor Looney.