A multimillion-euro investment aims to upskill those whose jobs are unlikely to return post-pandemic and prepare technological universities for the future.
A significant new investment aims to bolster regional skills development, enhance research and development and transform Ireland’s technological universities (TUs).
Today (1 June), Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris, TD, announced a €225m investment in further and higher education and research as part of the Government’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan.
The large investment includes a significant skills package for upskilling and reskilling for workers whose jobs are unlikely to return post-pandemic.
This will focus on ICT programming, software development, web developers, healthcare assistants, special needs assistants and logistics.
The skills package will also include a new Green Skills Action programme, which will focus on areas such as nearly zero-energy buildings (NZEBs), retrofitting and specific skills for bricklaying, carpentry, electrics, plastering and plumbing.
The investment follows the news of a new retrofitting partnership announced earlier today, which will create 200 jobs in this sector in the next five years.
In addition to the skills package, the funding also includes a €40m investment in the Transformation Fund for TUs, which will help them to reform academic programmes, including redefining student pathways and graduate outcomes as a response to local, regional and national needs post-pandemic.
The TU funding will be administered by the Higher Education Authority and will help the growing number of TUs around Ireland explore new and flexible ways to respond to students’ and regional skills needs following the online learning experience during the pandemic.
It will also allow TUs to develop greater digital connectivity between each other as well as staff, students and the communities in which they live, work and learn.
‘A digitally dominated economy’
Harris said Ireland’s education, research and innovation systems have become more important due to the pandemic.
“While the future world of work is still uncertain, it is clear that Covid-19 has accelerated us towards a digitally dominated economy,” he said.
“To keep pace with future change and to ensure people can return to sustainable jobs, a higher and further education model centred on apprenticeships, transferrable skills and flexible education responding to evolving skills needs, and lifelong learning is required. This package announced by Government today will help us respond to these immediate challenges, while preparing for the challenges of future.”
Research and innovation
The funding package also includes a €71.6m investment in a research and innovation National Grand Challenges Programme, which will focus on creating a climate neutral and clean economy.
Harris said this programme will see mission-oriented challenges used to incentivise researchers to deliver tangible impact for society in areas such as health, agriculture and climate.
Earlier today, Harris also announced plans for a national conversation on research and science, inviting the Irish public to have their say on how these can be used to shape the country in the future.