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Written Answers - Future Skills Needs

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 752 No. 2

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 28.  Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten  asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  the steps he is taking to meet the future skills needs of industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2727/12]

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy Ciarán Cannon): Information on Ciaran Cannon Zoom on Ciaran Cannon The Expert Group on Future Skills Needs identifies future skills needs of enterprise outlining current provision of education & training and identifies gaps in provision, where enterprise requirements cannot be met from current supply. The Expert Group has a key role to play in the identification of skills shortages in the enterprise sector and its recommendations will continue to be reflected in all new Labour Market Activation programmes and its research will continue to inform education provision at all levels.

The timely training and upskilling of the country’s workforce through a variety of relevant training programmes, further education and higher education programmes is a vital step to meet the future skills needs of industry.

In 2011, the training and further education sectors provided almost 300,000 places. In addition enrolments in the third level sector reached 166,000. The Department of Education and Skills expects to maintain this general level of place provision in 2012.

Following on the Labour Market Activation Fund which operated in 2010 and 2011, a new fund will be introduced in 2012 specifically targeted at the long term unemployed. This fund amounting to €20 million, from the National Training Fund, will deliver upwards of 6,500 education and training places.

There will be a further roll out of the Higher Education Springboard initiative. The precise number of places to be provided will be determined by the results of an open competitive tendering process which will be conducted in the first quarter of 2012.

[301]One of the areas which has been identified by the EGFSN with emerging skills shortages it the ICT sector. In response, the Government through the Departments of Education and Skills and the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation has developed an action plan to address the ICT skills demands articulated by business through a recent Forfás study. The Action Plan sets out clear timed actions that will be commenced in 2012 to ensure a sustainable domestic supply of suitably qualified graduates from the education system in the future and will be published shortly.

Skillnets which is an enterprise-led body funded through the National Training Fund (NTF) to provide companies with new opportunities to develop relevant, effective answers to their training and development needs was set ambitious targets for 2011 to train 40,000 persons, of which up to 8,000 will be unemployed, with up to 50% of training being for the low basic skilled. Similar targets to 2011 have been set for 2012 which will target the long term unemployed.

Future Skills Needs Programme fund, Job-seekers Support Programme fund and New Certified Programme Development fund were introduced in 2011 by Skillnets to respond to labour market needs as identified by industry and policy makers. In July 2011, the Government decided to create a new further education and training authority called SOLAS, under the aegis of my Department to establish a single new authority with strategic responsibility for the training currently delivered by FÁS and the further education currently delivered by Vocational Education Committees (VECs).

SOLAS’s mandate will be to ensure the provision of 21st century high-quality further education and training programmes to jobseekers and other learners. SOLAS and the National Employment Service (NEES) will be involved in working on an integrated basis to provide targeted appropriate training and to provide for the first time a direct referral for both Further Education and Training Programmes.

An enterprise engagement forum was established by my Department in late 2011 and is chaired by the Secretary General of my Department. Its aim is to ensure that there are good communication channels between enterprise partners and the education system.

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