This is a time of immense challenge, change and opportunity for the Dublin economy and its labour market.
The pursuit of the skills required to meet the future world of work, a critical objective across enterprise over the last decade, and a major focus of all those involved in the education sector, has been jet fuelled as a result of the pandemic. As we all know, the Covid-19 restrictions brought digital transformation overnight, and a new way of working which already has a lasting legacy even with those restrictions now gone. We are seeing a much more fluid, flexible, and potentially productive, labour force, where the physical location of where work is undertaken is less (but not un) important. It is already recognised that digital skills are just as essential as basic literacy and numeracy for practically every job. However there is also evidence that wider data analysis competencies are now becoming equally critical for many occupations. Work-based learning and workforce upskilling is now pivotal to our skills system, including in a burgeoning apprenticeship system (with 65 diverse apprenticeships now available) and through tailored access to courses and learning technology for most employees.
Skills Development Through Further Education and Training
Certainly what is clear is that the idea of doing a block of education from age 17-21 which will serve you for the rest of your career is now obsolete. For our skills and competencies to remain valid, this world will require us to continually upskill and reskill throughout our careers. And this is where further education and training (FET) really comes into its own. FET perhaps used to be seen as something you did if you weren’t particularly academic or had found yourselves at the margins of an economy or society, but this is no longer the case. FET is available in every community, and can offer you a pathway to take you as far as you want to go, regardless of any prior level of formal education. It has a long history of developing agile responses to meet evolving skills needs, leaving it perfectly placed to drive the new skills requirements of this city.
Addressing the Capital’s Skills Needs
Many will be aware of the strong legacy of FET in supporting construction skills and there is a critical focus on ramping up the skills pipeline to deliver on the country’s housing needs, which are particularly pressing in the Capital. This has also been aligned with a growing role for FET in green skills, including equipping construction workers with the NZEB (Nearly Zero Energy Building) and retrofitting competencies to ensure housing delivers on its climate action obligations. However FET is also about so much more, being the core driver of talent in key national industries like hospitality, retailing and healthcare, and developing new courses to meet the needs of our more global sectors, like tech (e.g. via a new cloud computing traineeship in partnership with Microsoft) and pharmaceuticals (e.g. via lab technician courses linked to key pharma employers).
Dublin Education and Training Options
Two Education and Training Boards (ETBs), City of Dublin ETB (CDETB) and Dublin Dun Laoghaire ETB (DDLETB), are responsible for providing further education and training across the city. The Future FET strategy, Transforming Learning, has an ambition to grow its contribution and impact by simplifying access; ensuring a high quality and consistent learner experience; offering clear learning pathways; and building a stronger identity. The two ETBs are already in the midst of exciting plans to deliver on this ambition via FET College of the Future projects, with CDETB consolidating provision within a dedicated FET college in Cathal Brugha Street, and DDLETB centring college propositions around its three core catchment areas of Fingal, Tallaght and South Dublin. The profile of FET has also been aided by the inclusion of a link to FET and apprenticeship options from the CAO website.
Dublin is also blessed with four fantastic universities and key to a successful future approach to meeting skills needs is a much more unified system and seamless pathways between FET and Higher Education (HE). There are already strong progression links between FET courses and degree programmes, helped by a strong ecosystem which facilitates partnerships, including a strong Dublin Regional Skills Forum. There is real potential to build on that by expanding pathways further and considering how FET and HE partners can work together on the co-development and co-delivery of degree programmes and on a dip in, dip out system where learners can build up credits across both systems over time throughout lifetimes and careers. The strengths of Dublin as this major centre of tertiary education, where collaboration has long characterised FET and HE relationships, and as Ireland’s major commercial and employment centre, gives it a unique opportunity to lead this new agile and cohesive approach to skills development.
Further information on all of these exciting options can be sourced at fetchcourses.ie and apprenticeship.ie. A range of free online upskilling courses are also available on the SOLAS online learning resource, eCollege.ie. Check them out, and help us work together for a Capital city which is the centre of future skills development.