Ireland’s Learning and Skills Rates Below EU Average

29th July 2016

Posted In: FYI

The Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN) published a report on Lifelong Learning in Ireland today.  

The report, which was prepared by the Skills and Labour Market Research Unit in SOLAS on behalf of the Group, finds that the participation rate of adults in Ireland in Lifelong Learning lags behind the European average.  In 2014, our participation rate of just under 7% was well below the EU average of almost 11%. Furthermore, the gap between Ireland’s participation rate and the EU average widened between 2009 and 2014.  

Speaking at the publication of the report Lifelong Learning Participation Amongst Adults in Ireland, the Chair of the EGFSN, Una Halligan, said:  “The Expert Group on Future Skills Needs is concerned that Ireland’s participation in Lifelong Learning has been consistently below the EU average, particularly for those in employment. We have a well-educated and highly skilled labour force, but it is important that people of all ages and at all educational levels participate in learning and upskilling on an ongoing basis in order to sustain their employability. All forms of learning, whether formal or non-formal, contribute to the skills enhancement and personal development of individuals.

The continuous training and up-skilling of people in the workforce is particularly important in maintaining the competitiveness of Irish-based businesses and in ensuring that employees’ skills do not become obsolete.  For wider society, research points to positive social effects of Lifelong Learning on personal development, health and quality of life, and on civic participation.  

Ms. Halligan added: “If anticipated skills needs or shortages in the economy are to be addressed, there is a need for industry and Government to invest more in this area. There are proven returns from investment in on-going employee training and development in terms of productivity, job satisfaction and staff retention.  We need to create a culture of Lifelong Learning in Ireland, with shared responsibility on the part of employers, education and training providers, Government, and learners themselves.  The greatest progress towards improving our Lifelong Learning rate could be expected to come from expanding opportunities for non-formal learning, especially in the workplace.”  

The National Skills Strategy, published in January 2016, recognises the importance of Lifelong Learning and includes a target of increasing the participation rate amongst adults to 10% in the medium-term.

Commenting on the Skills Strategy, Ms. Halligan concluded: “The Expert Group welcomes the emphasis which is placed on Lifelong Learning in the National Skills Strategy 2025 and calls for the early implementation of the measures set out in the Strategy as key to improving Ireland’s Lifelong Learning participation rates.  These include increased promotion of the benefits of Lifelong Learning among the general population, benchmarking the level of investment by businesses in workforce training, appropriate approaches to funding of education and training providers that support flexible learning opportunities, and promoting the dissemination of good practice in the Recognition of Prior Learning.”

Other key findings in the EGFSN report are:

–        of the population of almost 2.5 million adults aged 25-64 in Ireland, 177,300 people participated in Lifelong Learning activities in Quarter 4 2015;

–        the majority of these (amounting to 116,700 persons) participated in formal learning activities (i.e. education and training in the regular system of schools, universities, colleges and other formal educational institutions);

–        the remainder participated in non-formal learning activities (i.e. other organised and sustained educational activities which may or may not take place in educational institutions);

–        with a participation rate of 8%, females were more likely than males (at 6.3%) to participate in Lifelong Learning, particularly in non-formal learning activities;

o        lifelong learning participation rates tend to decline with age, but participation is greater amongst those with higher educational attainment levels;

–        participation rates were above the national average for the economically inactive and the unemployed, while the rate was below the national average for those in employment;  

–        Ireland’s participation rate in non-formal learning is particularly low, although its rate of formal learning is amongst one of the highest in the EU.

You can read the report in full here.