The tertiary education system has a number of key strategies in place at all levels to ensure we meet existing and future skills demands in the workplace and equip young people and the working population more generally with the skills and capacity to meet these demands, to enhance the level of human capital in Ireland and provide a solid basis for long-term economic sustainability and rising living standards. These strategies include, in particular, the National Skills Strategy 2025 and the Action Plan for Education 2016-2019.
According to an OECD 2017 Report, the employment prospects and expected financial benefits from completing tertiary education in Ireland are higher than in most other European countries, indicating that the education system provides skills that are relevant to the labour market. This finding is supported by the analysis contained in the recent independent impact assessment of Irish universities carried out by Indecon and commissioned by the Irish Universities Association.
In relation to graduate supply, in 2017 there were a total of 48,931 graduates from the Higher Education system. Of this number, a significant proportion were in key skills areas, 2,765 were in ICT, 5,729 in Engineering Manufacturing and Construction and 4,200 in Science and Maths.
The National Employer Survey completed in Q2 2018, has shown that employers are very satisfied with graduate recruits across a range of personal and workplace attributes, including computer and technical literacy, working effectively with others and numeracy/processing numerical data. Overall satisfaction with higher education graduates was 86% and for further education and training graduates overall satisfaction was 84%. The satisfaction with the computer and technology literacy of graduates is very high (88% for Higher Education, 83% for Further Education and Training).
Future Jobs Ireland, which was launched in March 2019 is a new whole-of Government plan to secure Ireland’s economic success. A key element of Future Jobs Ireland is to support business, invest in the development of people and to ensure our education and training system is responsive to enterprise needs.
Technology Skills 2022: Ireland’s Third ICT Skills Action Plan which is a collaborative effort by Government, the higher and further education and training system and industry to meet Ireland’s high level ICT skills needs was recently published. The plan has devised measures that will boost the supply of ICT graduates to meet the ambitious level of demand forecast for the coming years. By 2022, the interventions outlined in this plan aim to deliver up to an additional 5,000 graduates per annum through indigenous supply, with the remainder serviced by inward migration.
In addition, I recently launched the Report of the independent Review of Career Guidance Tools and Information carried out by Indecon International Consultants. The report which contains 18 far reaching recommendations under four themes: Reforms to Governance and Delivery Arrangements, Improvement in Career Guidance Tools and Career Information, Enhancement of Enterprise Engagement and Promotion of Inclusion, will ensure that my Department is providing high quality, relevant career guidance information to students from post–primary level up to further and higher education. A Departmental internal taskforce has been established to examine each of the recommendations and develop a prioritised implementation plan.
I am satisfied that these and other important elements of my Departments strategies, developed in collaboration with key stakeholders, will help ensure that we are well prepared to meet our skills needs on an ongoing basis and to support the long-term success of our economy.