In relation to National Goal One of the National Positive Ageing Strategy, my Department oversees the development and promotion of access to a wide range of further education and training (FET) opportunities for people as they age.
Since 2016 my Department, through SOLAS the Further Education and Training Authority, has funded a national awareness raising campaign, 'Take the First Step' to encourage those, including older adults, with basic skill needs such as literacy and numeracy to return to education and improve their skills. The 'Take the First Step' campaign helps to break down apprehension that may be felt by some older individuals returning to education. The campaign is funded by SOLAS and delivered by NALA, the National Adult Literacy Agency. Surveys are conducted each year the campaign runs, and are published in evaluation reports. The evaluations found that awareness in general increases with age, from 29% of 18-24 year olds, to 63% of 65+ year olds, highlighting the campaign’s greater salience and impact with older age cohorts.
Education and Training Boards (ETBs) are requested, by SOLAS, to consider how the needs of priority cohorts are being addressed, including the development of appropriate provision tailored to the needs of older workers. As evidenced by the statistics available, FET is for all ages: in 2018, there were 1,800 learners who were 80 years of age and older. More than 100 learners were over 90.
My Department recognises that, for older workers to remain in the workforce, they may need education and training interventions. Employers, in particular in SMEs, will require support to identify and address the skills needs of employees, including those who are in the older age cohorts, who are engaged in lower skilled work. SOLAS, together with the ETBs, is addressing this through the Skills to Advance and Skills for Work programmes, which both provide upskilling and reskilling opportunities to vulnerable workers.
SOLAS also provides grant funding to Age Action Ireland for the purposes of promoting the active involvement of older people in lifelong learning through the development of personal, social and related skills in areas ranging from IT classes to physical activity programmes.