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.
The Higher Education Authority (HEA) have been tracking graduate outcomes since 1982. This annual survey tracks student outcomes 18 months after graduation with findings published by the HEA on www.hea.ie. The HEA have also partnered with the CSO to produce longitudinal reports of graduate experience 1, 3 and 5 years post-graduation. These are available on www.cso.ie
The January 2019 version of the HEA graduate outcomes report tracked the 2017 graduate class. Of this cohort who were employed 18 months post-graduation - 70% of Level 6 & 7 graduates, 77% of Honours Bachelor Degree (L8) graduates and 84% of taught postgraduate graduates rated the area of study as relevant to their area of employment (somewhat relevant to very relevant).
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).
I recently launched the Human Capital Initiative, the primary objective of which is to underpin the provision of additional capacity across the Higher Education Sector to meet priority skill needs for enterprise. It represents an additional investment of €300m (€60m per annum from 2020 to 2024) from the surplus in the National Training Fund in line with the recommendation contained in the independent review of the National Training Fund.
The HCI will also incentivise continued reform and innovation in third level provision building on best practice nationally and internationally, strongly supporting innovation in programme design and delivery. It aims to future proof graduates and ensure that there is a greater focus across the whole spectrum of Higher Education course provision on promoting and embedding transversal skills.
Priority skills will be identified though the detailed and comprehensive framework now in place under the National Skills Council, including publications from the Skills and Labour Market Research Unit (SLMRU), the work of the Regional Skills For a, the NTF Advisory Group, and the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs, and direct involvement of employers.
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.
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.