People handling giant shapes in a shaping the future cartoon. Some of them have ladders leaning up against the shapes.
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How UCD Professional Academy is shaping Ireland’s workforce

14 Sep 2023

New courses in AI and analytics and more short-form flexible learning courses are going to be added to UCD Professional Academy’s offering in 2024.

It has only been in operation for three years, but UCD Professional Academy has already enrolled thousands of learners. It recently hit a milestone of 25,000 students, the vast majority of whom are professionals who require something a little bit different from the standard university degree.

While it is headquartered on University College Dublin’s (UCD) campus, UCD Professional Academy is not targeting your typical student. Its focus is on providing professionals with the most in-demand skills they need to be successful in their working lives. Companies such as SAP, Amazon and the HSE have all partnered up with the academy to train employees. There are more than 40 professional-certified courses available, ranging in topics from data analytics to marketing. According to the academy’s head of communications, Colin Stoddart, there are plans in the works to add more as soon as possible.

AI and data are areas of focus

He told that data literacy is one of the areas the academy’s team of instructors is focusing on at the moment. They are putting the finishing touches to a collection of courses that aim to help organisations upskill their staff in data literacy “to reach various levels of competency, from zero to good Excel data fluency, to interactive Tableau dashboards and advanced custom machine learning with Python”.

Another area the team is working on is, of course, AI. As Stoddart put it, they have been “quietly working in the background to support organisations in their response to the accelerated pace of developments in artificial intelligence” by updating existing AI courses and preparing an advanced AI offering. They are also designing another title in the same field for launch in 2024.

In order to keep the content as fresh as possible, the team consults its industry partners, instructors and alumni. “Establishing partnerships and collaborations with industry professionals, companies and experts provides insights into the latest trends, tools, and technologies. This ensures that course content reflects real-world requirements, and can have the most meaningful impact on skills development for learners,” said Stoddart.

The academy’s policy is that many hands are better than too few. When it comes to course development it brings in new contributors for every update to ensure the material is being evaluated by as many expert eyes as possible.

Regular updates and reviews of material

“Most courses are reviewed within a year,” said Stoddart, adding that “Updates are typically driven by industry developments, student and company feedback; academic performance and other factors may also inform a course review, and the result is that UCD Professional Academy courses are continuously evolving to reflect what is happening in the industry now.”

He said that the timeliness of the courses is particularly important for fast-moving industries like digital marketing, AI and analytics. But perhaps the most important motivation for enforcing such rigorous quality control is the learners themselves – if they don’t get new skills and knowledge from the material they won’t keep enrolling or being enrolled by their employers.

“Our on-demand courses have proven extremely popular with professionals with busy lifestyles. Our plan for 2024 includes expanding the number of courses that will be available in this format while taking that opportunity to update the content and ensure that it reflects current industry trends,” Stoddart added.

“As the world of work and the structure of economies change, Ireland’s workforce will have to continuously adapt to new skill needs/requirements if we are to keep pace with change and continue to thrive. Our goal at UCD Professional Academy is to be a key partner shaping and delivering Ireland’s future workforce.”

The academy is holding a virtual open day webinar on 19 September at 1pm, which you can attend if you sign up via the website.

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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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