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Upskilling on the rise with a focus on tackling digital skills gap

14 Jul 2021

Skillnet Ireland said it will build on its 2020 record and will promote the development and uptake of advanced learning technologies.

There has been a record level of participation in its workforce upskilling programmes, according to Skillnet Ireland’s 2020 annual report.

The business support agency, which provides training to workers to build Ireland’s workforce for the future, said that 81,895 people participated in its upskilling programmes in 2020, which was a 17pc increase on the previous year.

The organisation delivered 9,110 different programmes spanning industry and professional certified courses, management development programmes, specialised upskilling, new industry and academia collaborations, and many innovation and research-based projects in 2020.

Skillnet Ireland also reports an 18pc increase in businesses engaging with its upskilling programmes in 2020 – and 94pc of these were SMEs. The organisation invested €51m in upskilling programmes overall.

At the launch of its annual report today (14 July), Skillnet Ireland said its five-year strategy will build on its 2020 record. It aims to increase engagement with business and industry, double the numbers participating in talent development programmes and focus on the challenges of digital transformation and the climate emergency.

The five-year plan aims to help workers upskill to navigate the accelerated digitisation of many jobs since the pandemic began. Its plan aims to evaluate Ireland’s workforce to help workers and businesses navigate what it calls an “age of unparalleled technological disruption and business transformation.”

It will prioritise initiatives that address the digital skills gap and promote the development and uptake of advanced learning technologies including AR and VR immersive learning technologies, AI-based learning and virtual or robotic tuition.

As part of its strategic innovation plan, Skillnet Ireland will collaborate with Technology Ireland ICT to develop a series of master’s degrees in AI, blockchain and IoT through partnerships with the university sector and Ireland’s tech industry.

These master’s degrees will build on last year’s Skills Connect programme, which helped workers impacted by the pandemic to reskill quickly and secure new job opportunities in high-growth sectors including technology, medtech, renewable energy and agrifood.

Speaking at today’s launch, Skillnet Ireland’s chief executive Paul Healy said: “2020 was a year where we blended challenge with ambition. Together with our industry partners, Skillnet Ireland responded swiftly to deliver impact when it was needed most for the business community. We supported over 21,000 companies as they remodelled their businesses, embraced digitalisation, adapted to new ways of working, and navigated a myriad of new challenges.”

Healy added that he was particularly pleased to see businesses commit to the organisation despite the financial constraints many of them faced last year. Employers contributed €17.9m towards the cost of upskilling programmes in 2020.

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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