Education and Skills are Key Election Issues for the Business Community

Feb 9, 2016

Education and Skills are key issues in General Election 2016 for various reasons. From our perspective the concern is predominantly with the economic challenges Ireland faces due to the emergence of significant skills gaps and skills shortages. There are widespread reports from employers, especially in the IT industry, that Ireland does not have the numbers of people skilled in these areas to deal with demand for workers. This is a major problem for both indigenous industries and FDI firms. The skills mismatch hinders our competitiveness in attracting international investment and prevents firms already operating in Ireland from expanding.

The OECD, among others, has highlighted this significant skills mismatch in Ireland between industry requirements and the workforce available. Although Ireland has one of the highest proportions of third-level graduates in the developed world, many have insufficient or mismatched skills to obtain employment in a modern economy.

The Government recently published the National Skills Strategy 2025, which we are happy to see reflects a number of the observations and recommendations we contributed during the consultation period. While it is positive to see the publication of the strategy, responsibility lies with the next Minister for Education and Skills to implement this strategy and to immediately begin tackling the skills challenges in our economy that exist at the moment and to plan for the future.

Our Vision for 2021 is that there is a strategic plan in place to ensure that our education system supports economic development and the skills needs of the economy. This must involve an ongoing process of reform so that the system can evolve to meet the needs of a modern world and global economy. Apprenticeships programmes that help meet the future labour market needs of industry are essential to addressing the skills needs of a growing economy. We also propose that the National Training Fund is refocused in light of decreasing unemployment figures and to address the skills mismatches in the economy. There is the opportunity now in a period of falling unemployment to focus on the training of SMEs and provide more SMEs with the support they need to scale up and export.

Finally Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) are playing an increasing role in the Irish and global economy. By 2021 we want Ireland to be a world leader in STEM education. For this to succeed the next Government must focus investment and incentives to encourage students to engage with STEM education from an early age.

You can read A Vision for 2021 – a Manifesto for the Future from the Irish Chamber Network here

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