Barry Twomey and Louise O’Gorman discuss the Advance Centre and how it can help Irish workers upskill in areas of digital transformation.
Digital transformation has become a critical part of so many industries now and, with change happening so fast, many professionals working both in and outside the tech sector will need to upskill.
But with a topic so broad that can mean so many different things depending on where it’s applied, how can it be taught?
According to Dr Barry Twomey of University College Dublin (UCD), it starts with understanding what digital transformation means for a company or sector.
“It is a bit like talking about transversal skills such as creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship, critical and analytical thinking, teamwork, communication and business acumen. These are skills that employers need and need now. The skills to support this from a digital transformation perspective build off this.”
Twomey is the director of the Advance Centre, an education initiative set up by UCD, Atlantic Technological University Sligo (ATU Sligo) and TU Dublin, which focuses on professional learning.
The centre offers courses from level 6 to 9 on the National Framework of Qualifications with 11 different themes under the banner of digital transformation.
“There are three underpinning themes: software engineering, data science and cybersecurity. The remaining eight themes focus on application areas from digital agriculture to AI in medicine,” Twomey explained.
“The aim is to provide flexible learning routes, where the core subjects and application subjects can be combined to form a qualification that is not currently available. We are also here to act as a conduit to the universities.”
Preparing for the future
Louise O’Gorman, manager of the Advance Centre at ATU Sligo, said many companies are well on the way to implementing the associated technologies to become more efficient and improve their operations and competitiveness.
“The technical skills needed to future-proof your business include cybersecurity, autonomous robots, cloud computing, internet of things and additive manufacturing. The Advance Centre offers modules in all of these areas, whether it is an overview of a topic, or a more in-depth level needed to deploy a particular technology,” she said.
“For professionals wishing to reskill or upskill in the area of digital transformation, the provision of online learning has been instrumental in providing people with the opportunity to access top-class accredited third-level courses.”
O’Gorman said that when it comes to addressing the skills gaps that are emerging in tech and digital transformation, it’s important to address the skill and not the tool.
“There are new tools available for all aspects of digital learning and digital practice, and these can be provider specific. If you learn the skills, the learning curve is reduced if you have to change the tools you are using,” she said.
‘The biggest difference we are trying to offer is around the overall structure of the learning’
– LOUISE O’GORMAN
“Understanding the fundamental principles of a subject is more important than understanding the software from a specific provider. Universities are required to keep up to speed on what the skills gaps are. This can be informed by industry partners, but it is also informed by emerging research fields.”
Technologies are evolving so quickly and, to stay up to speed, Twomey said those interested in upskilling need to be flexible and curious.
“In terms of teaching and upskilling, a university is there to lay the foundations for learners to explain and demystify the key aspects and principles of subject matter. As the learning level increases, and in parallel with real-world experience, the application of this learning comes next, feeding into more advanced principles.”
The modules in the Advance Centre courses are designed and delivered in conjunction with industry partners. O’Gorman said graduates are guaranteed to have the knowledge, skills and competencies required by businesses engaged in the digital transformation of their processes.
“While the learning landscape has changed significantly over the last two to three years, not all changes were good,” said O’Gorman.
“The biggest difference we are trying to offer is around the overall structure of the learning. We want to give learners the ability to select modules, from a range of subject areas, and bring them together to cover a broader skills need, in a part-time manner.”
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