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Home » Future of Work » The benefits of flexible skills training are available for all through further education and training

Ciara Ni Fhloinn

Flexible Learning Manager, Enterprise, Employees and Skills – SOLAS, The Further Education and Training Authority

Mary Lyons

Director, Enterprise, Employees and Skills – SOLAS, The Further Education and Training Authority

Noreen FitzPatrick

Employee Development Manager, Enterprise Employees and Skills – SOLAS, The Further Education and Training Authority

Flexible and low-cost skills training can help enhance employability in Ireland’s workforce and improve businesses’ competitiveness in an increasingly demanding economy.

Digitalisation and the use of emerging technologies are transforming the world of work, even in traditionally non-digital industries such as agriculture and manufacturing. As a result, there is an increasing demand for upskilling in a variety of sectors from engineering to health care and food.

By availing of low-cost and flexible opportunities from Education and Training Boards (ETBs) throughout Ireland, individuals can enhance their employability and businesses can strengthen their competitiveness. Skills to Advance is a policy initiative which offers a wide range of skills development opportunities. It equips employees to keep pace with changes in their work, tasks and jobs and supports businesses to develop their workforce to achieve increased productivity and business growth. Developing the potential of existing employees is increasingly essential to retain workers in a scarce labour market.

Learning new skills flexibly

Both businesses and individuals in Ireland can take advantage of low-cost, local and flexible learning options through the further education and training system. Learners can opt for hybrid courses that blend the experience of in-person with online learning. Alternatively, they can fit learning around their work and life commitments with online courses.

Businesses can also arrange for their employees to avail of specific courses aligned to their needs under the Skills to Advance initiative. In 2022, ETBs will offer over 1,500 courses in business and administration, management, healthcare support, basic digital skills, training and development, project management and near zero energy building.

Highly tailored to the needs of the business, courses are scheduled to suit business requirements and are available locally from ETBs. ETBs offer a wide range upskilling options from shorter targeted skills based courses to traineeships and apprenticeships, supporting labour market mobility and resilience to changing skill needs.

Companies in Ireland will increasingly need a workforce with robust technical skills and knowledge in sustainability.

Closing the digital skills gap

“We know that across the population the level of digital skills isn’t uniformly distributed. There are also specific options across the further education and training system that focus on digital skills, providing structured, achievable pathways for learners to progress.” says Ciara Ni Fhloinn, Flexible Learning Manager at SOLAS, the Further Education and Training state agency.

Increasing workers’ digital capabilities as well as improving technical competence are key ways to ensure Irish businesses remain competitive in today’s emerging digital economy. Businesses can also improve employee retention while reaping the rewards of cross-skilling by providing opportunities for their workforce to learn new digital skills.

Upskilling is for everyone and is available at low or no cost in online, blended and in-person settings to suit the busy lives of adult learners. One small step to learn a new skill can transform an individual’s career prospects, increase a company’s productivity and contribute to national economic competitiveness.

Preparing for the future

“We’re looking ahead to see what the skill needs are in the future and, at the moment, there is a need for more accredited programmes in the green skills area,” explains Noreen Fitzpatrick, Employee Development Manager at SOLAS.

“We need to provide employees with new skills to adapt and change work processes and systems to enable their companies meet sustainability challenges.” Sustainable development is becoming a global trend as more companies introduce new ways of thinking and operating for a sustainable future.

Companies in Ireland will increasingly need a workforce with robust technical skills and knowledge in sustainability in areas such as the circular economy and greening the supply chain.

“Businesses can avail of Skills to Advance development opportunities that will help their business into the future to develop that agile workforce,” adds Fitzpatrick.

Funded by SOLAS, Further Education and Training is provided by the ETBs and offers a variety of free to low-cost training options for businesses and individuals. eCollege is the national online learning service for further education and training provided by SOLAS.

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