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OECD Skills report: Irish adults at risk of falling behind as workplaces advance

10 May 2023

On the subject of technology, the OECD Skills Strategy report said that Irish workers could be at risk of falling behind due to automation.

The OECD Ireland Skills Strategy report showed mixed results in terms of Irish people’s preparedness for the world of work.

The report was published yesterday (9 May). It revealed that although the share of young adults with a tertiary degree is significantly above the OECD average, there are signs of problems arising in terms of upskilling.

Participation in lifelong learning is above EU average but behind some of the top performers.

In 2021, Eurostat measured the level of adults aged 25-64 that had participated in training programmes in the month prior to participating the survey. Ireland’s rate of 13.6pc was significantly behind Sweden and Finland, which had rates of 34.7pc and 30.5pc respectively. The EU average was 10.8pc.

Many Irish adults are at risk of falling behind at work as they do not have the right skills to thrive in their current employment and are unprepared for changes in the world of work.

Automation requires new skills

On the subject of technology, the report said that Ireland could be at risk of falling behind due to automation. “Technological change can help drive productivity and overcome skills shortages. However, it also means that many people will need to develop skills for new jobs or upgrade their skills for existing ones.”

Irish employers are worried about skills gaps in their workforces. The OECD recommends that Ireland invest significantly in upskilling programmes and provide supports for workplaces to facilitate upskilling and reskilling programmes so Irish businesses can compete with the EU’s best.

The OECD report’s publication coincided with the Irish launch of the European Year of Skills. The EU has designated 2023 as a year for all member states to focus on their national skills campaigns and encourage lifelong learning.

Policy changes could lie ahead

The OECD Skills Strategy report for Ireland was led by the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science.

That department’s Minister Simon Harris, TD commented on the OECD’s findings, saying, “The change in our professional and personal lives is not going to cease. Whether it’s digitisation of society or other trends we live with, like climate adaptation, the pace of transformation will only increase.

“We have a short window of opportunity to ensure that these transformations lead to a new age of good work, good jobs and improved quality of life for all.”

He said that cooperation was needed to achieve this. The OECD’s recommendations included a review of Ireland’s National Skills Strategy up to 2025 and the recommendations it provided can now be included in that document.

Harris said he would report back to Government on what actions should be taken “including the need to consider a new Skills Act”.

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Blathnaid O’Dea
By Blathnaid O’Dea

Blathnaid O’Dea worked as a Careers reporter until 2024, coming from a background in the Humanities. She likes people, pranking, pictures of puffins – and apparently alliteration.

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