I propose to take Questions Nos. 80, 81 and 147 together.
My Department has been working on the development of a plan for the implementation of the European Commission's Upskilling Pathways Recommendation: New Opportunities for Adults. My Department has been working with partners on the implementation of the Upskilling Pathways recommendation, which aims to help adults with less than upper second level education acquire a minimum level of literacy, numeracy and digital skills.
My Department has established a multi–agency steering group to identify the priority cohorts and appropriate measures to implement the Upskilling Pathways Recommendation. This informed my Department's recent response to a request from the Commission for information regarding arrangements in Ireland on upskilling pathways interventions. The response presented the overall context for Upskilling Pathways in Ireland, including key background information that the Commission would find useful, as well as information on existing and planned provision. The Commission are conducting an audit of interventions across Member States and hope to report back on their findings by the end of the year.
I also recently launched a new policy framework for employee development, 'Supporting Working Lives and Enterprise Growth in Ireland'. This new approach will enable targeted support for vulnerable groups in the Irish workforce as it has a particular focus on employees who have lower skills levels and who need more opportunities to advance in their working lives and careers, to sustain their employment and to avoid displacement or to avail of emerging job opportunities. This is a substantial part of our national efforts to implement the Upskilling Pathways Recommendation as almost half of those with less than an upper secondary qualification are in employment.
The policy sets a target of having over 40,000 workers, whose skills level is below Level 5 on the National Framework of Qualifications, engaged in state supported skills development by 2021. This will supplement the numbers already being supported through our adult literacy programmes. Participation by employees in relevant courses will be provided free of charge. The issue of paid leave to take part in upskilling would be a matter for each individual employer.
The development and publication of this policy framework is a key deliverable under the 2018 Action Plan for Education.