Summary

The skills anticipation in Ireland is a well-coordinated process, providing information on skills shortages and future requirements in the labour market. The aim is to ensure that education and training provision is relevant to current and future labour market demands and skills needs.

Skills anticipation activities comprise skills forecasts, assessments and foresight activities. The occupational forecasts remain the most widely used and influential data for policy despite only providing an indication of future occupational trends. There is great potential in the future to expand the National Skills Database and the Careers Portal so that more data and information are made available and visualised.

The majority of Ireland’s labour market intelligence and skills data are produced by the Skills and Labour Market Research Unit (SLMRU). This unit is based in SOLAS, the Further Education and Training Authority (An tSeirbhís Oideachais Leanúnaigh agus Scileanna), formerly FÁS. Over the last few years, there have been substantial investments in further refining, coordinating and developing skills anticipation processes and activities, including the establishment of SOLAS, the SLMRU, the National Skills Database, andtheRegional Skills Fora. Further changes, such as the establishment of a National Skills Council have been proposed as part ofIreland’s National Skills Strategy 2025. Ireland’s skills anticipation activities provide a good example of how stakeholders have a key role to play in the process, particularly through the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs(EGFSN).

Currently, information on skills anticipation is widely disseminated reaching intended target groups. It is governed by the Department of Education and Skills with support from the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, as well as with a wider group of stakeholders.

 

 

Please cite this document as: Skills Panorama (2017), Skills anticipation in Ireland. Analytical highlights series. Available at /en/analytical_highlights/skills-anticipation-ireland

Overview of the Irish approach

Skills anticipation in Ireland

Description

Skills anticipation activities in Ireland comprise skills forecasts, assessments and foresight activities. In 1991, the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) developed occupational forecasting models in conjunction with the Training and Employment Authority (Foras Áiseanna Saothair, FÁS), and the organisations jointly produced Manpower Forecasting Studies between 1991 and 2007. The majority of Ireland’s labour market intelligence and skills data are produced by the Skills and Labour Market Research Unit (SLMRU) based in SOLAS. The SLMRU reports on a range of labour market indicators, such as vacancy statistics and occupational forecasts (taken over from the ESRI in 2008). It runs an employer’s survey, and produces sectoral studies.

Aims

The aim of skills anticipation activities is to ensure that education and training provision is relevant to current and future labour market demands and skills needs.

A number of changes, and restructuring, pertinent to skills anticipation, have occurred in Ireland since 2011 within the context of the economic crisis and a change in political administration.

In November 2011, the Irish government released the Public Sector Reform Plan which placed the EGFSN within the remit of the Department of Education and Skills (An Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna, DES). (1) The following year the government published a major labour activation strategy, Pathways to Work, (2) which set out a number of key actions and targets to address persistent joblessness. As a result, the Labour Market Council was set up, which supported the establishment of SOLAS and Education and Training Boards (ETBs). SOLAS was created in 2013 under the Further Education and Training Act as an Agency of the DES, replacing FÁS to build a further education and training (FET) ‘sector that is responsive to the needs of learners and the requirements of a changed and changing economy.’ (3)

Most recently, in 2016, the DES and the Department for Skills, Research and Innovation jointly released Ireland’s National Skills Strategy 2025, which builds upon the 2007 strategy Towards Tomorrow’s Skills and aims to ‘support an increase in the supply of skills to the labour market,’ actively including educators and employers in the development of skills. (4)

Governance

Ireland’s skills anticipation processes are governed by the DES with the support of the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (An Roinn Post, Fiontar agus Nuálaíochta, DJEI) and a variety of stakeholders. It works closely with a wide range of stakeholders including learners, employers, ETBs, government departments, state bodies, Quality and Qualifications Ireland (Dearbhú Cáilíochta agus Cáilíochataí Êireann, QQI), the Higher Education Authority (An túdarás um ard-oideachas, HEA) (which oversees tertiary-level education in Ireland), institutes of technology and representative organisations.

The role of stakeholders

Skills anticipation activities are well coordinated in Ireland, with data collated from a number of official data providers and intelligence disseminated to intended target groups and policymakers. Data are collected by government departments and agencies and collated in the National Skills Database, which is publicly available and widely disseminated.

In 1991 the independent ESRI worked with FÁS to produce an occupational forecasting model and a series of Manpower Forecasting Studies. The responsibility for the occupational forecasting model has since been absorbed within FÁS and run by the SLMRU since 2008. (5) The SLMRU consults with key agencies and employer bodies, such as Ibec and the ESRI, as a final integrity check on the occupational employment forecasts.

The EGFSN was established under the former Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment in 1997 and now sits under the DJEI and the DES, (6) and informs the government on skills needs. The EGFSN was created to ensure that ‘labour market needs for skilled workers are anticipated and provided for.’ (7) The EGFSN operates under a social partnership model and comprises a range of experts and stakeholders, namely trade unions, businesses, employees, education, government and state agencies, voluntary organisations and career guidance providers. It advises the government on current and future skills needs of the economy and on other labour market issues that impact on Ireland’s enterprise and employment growth. Its role is to ensure that labour market needs for skilled workers are anticipated and met. (8) This advice is achieved through a combination of: (9)

  • Skills foresight and benchmarking;
  • Strategic advice on building skills through education and training;
  • Data collection and analysis on demand and supply of skilled labour;
  • Influencing and monitoring of implementation.

The EGFSN is considered an effective group as it is representative of a range of stakeholders, and because it uses up-to-date labour market intelligence and occupational forecasting data. TheEGFSN is a trans-ministerial committee, which includes stakeholders from social, further education and training and government sectors. It reports to both the Minister of Education and Skills and the Minister of Enterprise, Innovation and Jobs.

Management of the National Apprenticeship System, the MOMENTUM programme, the European Adjustment Globalisation Fund (EGF), eCollege, Safepass and the Construction Skills Certification Scheme falls to SOLAS.

The CSO, a statutory body, provides official statistics, which are used for skills anticipation research by the SLMRU and EGFSN (e.g. the Labour Force Survey). However, the CSO does not conduct research on skills anticipation.

Regional representatives also play a role in skills anticipation processes. Nine Regional Skills Fora have been established across Ireland as part of the National Skills Strategy 2025. (10) The aim of these fora is to act as a contact point and a broker for employers accessing services and support in the education and training system. These fora also support employers to promote opportunities and to enable programme development based on an analysis of employers’ needs, as well as enhancing learners’ progression. (11) In addition to these efforts, a National Skills Council has also been planned under the National Skills Strategy 2025. (12)

Target groups

Information and data from skills anticipation activities are widely disseminated to government departments, universities and ETBs. Wide-ranging and comprehensive information is also disseminated through high-profile events and web-based skills portals to reach target groups.

Summary information by occupation from the National Skills Database was published on the Department of Social Protection’s (An Roinn Coimirce Sóisialai) Career Directions website. This has since been replaced by SOLAS, which targets public employment service (PES) and career guidance officers. SOLAS summarises information from the Labour Market Bulletin and the SLMRU occupational forecasts. The objective is to help the PES in advising jobseekers, but there is a concern that PES and career guidance officers have limited understanding of the labour market and do not keep up to date with relevant publications. Labour market information (LMI) is publicly available on the SOLAS LMI website .

The EGFSN’s outputs are targeted at students, jobseekers and career guidance officers through websites, such as the Careers Portal, newsletters and the Institute of Guidance Counsellors (Institúid na gComhairleoirí Treorach, IGC). The websites are publicly available and can therefore be used by not only the target groups but also the PES and employers. The Careers Portal was created in response to a recommendation by the EGFSN for a single portal with labour market information and career guidance. It is supported by public and private organisations.

These publications and outputs are intended for use by a range of stakeholders. The extent, however, to which these data influence policy or are used by career guidance and PES officers is unclear.

Funding and resources

SOLAS, the EGFSN and the CSO are funded by the government.

Methods and tools

Skills assessment

There are a number of skills assessments undertaken, including:

  • Monitoring Ireland’s Skills Supply: Trends in Education and Training Outputs, (13) which provides a comprehensive overview of the inflows into and outflows from Ireland’s education and training system according to qualification level and field of learning.
  • The National Skills Bulletin (14) presents analysis of the information gathered and maintained in the National Skills Database, which allows for an overview of the Irish labour market at occupational level. The Bulletin aims to assist policy formulation in the areas of employment, education/training and immigration.
  • The Regional Labour Markets Bulletin (15) provides an analysis of the key labour market indicators for each of Ireland’s eight administrative regions: Border, Dublin, Mid-East, Midland, Mid-West, South-East, South-West and West.
  • The Vacancy Overview Report (16) provides an overview and analysis of the demand for labour as measured by trends in newly advertised job vacancies through both public and private sources.

Skills forecasts

Quantitative model-based forecasts are undertaken in Ireland, projecting labour market prospects for jobseekers to find a job and for employers to identify potential recruitment problems. These forecasts are undertaken by the SLMRU. The data form part of the National Skills Database, which was extended in 2010 to include the occupational employment forecasting model. The Standard Occupational Classifications (SOC) 1990 and International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) coding systems are used as proxy measures of skills in the forecasts. The occupational forecasts are built upon the macroeconomic and demographic models of the ESRI, which was the primary provider of occupational forecasts up to 2009. The SLMRU generates the forecast series by applying the ESRI sectoral growth rates to the most recent estimates of occupational employment provided by the CSO Labour Force Survey. Forecasts are presented over the medium term for 15 sectors of the Irish economy, thereby extending the forecasts produced for 11 sectors by the ESRI. Historical occupational distribution data for 133 occupations within 15 sectors are derived using the Quarterly National Household Survey (QNHS). These projections are used to generate expansion in demand for skills using trends in educational shares. The SLMRU reports that the model fails to take into consideration education and training providers’ ability to adjust their supply in response to changing labour demands and that technology has a major impact on the demand for labour.

Skills foresight

The EGFSN and SOLAS undertake a range of foresight exercises at a sectoral level, including on the green and digital economies. (17)

Other skills anticipation practices

Other skills anticipation practices have been identified:

  • Ibec (the Irish Business and Employer’s Confederation) produces forecasts and salary surveys relevant to business. A Quarterly Economic Outlook is produced which provides an up-to-date picture of the Irish labour market. (18) It includes data and forecasts on economic and employment indicators.
  • A bi-annual recruitment survey by the SLMRU is considered a reliable indicator of skills shortages, as agencies belonging to the National Recruitment Federation of Ireland (NRF) are surveyed. They report on the level of difficulty in sourcing individuals with the appropriate skills.

Data on skills and other labour market indicators inform and/or extend skills anticipation outputs and are collated by the SLMRU and included in the National Skills Database. Key data include:

  • Employment data (provided by the CSO QNHS).
  • Education and training provision, participation and output provided by the HEA, the DES, QQI, SOLAS and some private education and training providers.
  • First destination of third-level students on graduation, provided by the HEA.
  • Employment permit data provided by the DJEI.
  • Job vacancies, provided by the Department of Social Protection, The Irish Times, IrishJobs.ie and the Recruitment Agency Survey conducted by the SLMRU.
  • Job announcements and redundancy announcements.
  • Jobseeker data provided by the Department of Social Protection.
  • Labour market transitions (research provided by the SLMRU based on the QNHS).

Dissemination and use

Use of skills anticipation in policy

Data from skills anticipation activities in Ireland, particularly the forecast data, have a significant impact on public policy due to the dissemination strategy of the SLMRU. The data from the forecasts inform policy and investment decisions, inter alia, in the provision of vocational education and training.

In Ireland, skills needs data are being used, among other things, to help in the transition to a greener and digital economy. For instance, recent studies have focused on the skills requirements of businesses working in the green economy. (19) These reports include recommendations aimed at enhancing current training provision.

Skills data are being used to inform further education and training programmes such as:

  • The MOMENTUM programme, which is funded by the European Structural Funds Programme and administered by SOLAS. MOMENTUM uses data from skills anticipation activities to ensure that further education and training is related to labour market demand. The programme funds the provision of free education and training to over 12,000 jobseekers who are long-term unemployed. The programme aims to train individuals and enable their access to employment opportunities in sectors which are experiencing growth, such as ICT, digital media, healthcare and social services, the green economy, food processing and sales and marketing.
  • The Apprenticeship Implementation Plan 2014, which works on the basis that apprenticeships should be led by industry and based on labour market demand.
  • The Springboard programme that provides individuals with the opportunity to access higher education programmes to upskill and reskill graduates based on projected labour market demands and occupational forecasts from the EGFSN.

Target groups’ uses of skills anticipation outputs

Information and data from skills anticipation activities are widely disseminated to government departments, universities and ETBs. Data from the National Skills Database are made available through four publicly available reports produced each year: the National Skills Bulletin, (20) Monitoring Ireland’s Skills Supply: Trends in Education/Training Outputs, the Regional Labour Markets Bulletin and the Vacancy Overview Report. (21) The National Skills Bulletin provides an overview of the health of the Irish labour market focusing on changes in sectoral and occupational employment patterns, unemployment, labour market transitions, hard-to-fill vacancies and work permits issued to non-nationals. Wide-ranging and comprehensive information is also disseminated through high-profile events and web-based skills portals to reach target groups. Furthermore, Regional Skills Fora were established to liaise with employers and help inform the provision of education and training towards meeting objectives set in the National Skills Strategy 2025.

Outputs from skills anticipation activities are disseminated and used by a wide range of stakeholders including learners, employers, ETBs, government departments, state bodies, QQI, the HEA, institutes of technology and representative organisations. The EGFSN, with representatives from trade unions, businesses, employees, education, government, voluntary organisations, career guidance providers and state agencies, has an important role in advising the DES and the DJEI about the current and future labour market.

 

Please cite this document as: Skills Panorama (2017), Skills anticipation in Ireland. Analytical highlights series. 
Available at /en/analytical_highlights/skills-anticipation-ireland

 

 

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Endnotes

(1) For the Public Sector Reform Plan see Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (2011).

(2) This was followed up by Pathways to Work 2015; see Irish Government (2015).

(3) See SOLAS (n.d. b.) for more information about SOLAS’s remit.

(4) DES (2016).

(5) European Commission (2016).

(6) For more information see EGFSN (n.d.a.).

(7) For the mandate of the EGFSN, see EGFSN (2007a).

(8) For recent publications see EGFSN (2016b).

(9) See EGFSN (n.d.a)

(10) There are nine Regional Fora: North-West, North-East, West, Midlands, Mid-East, Dublin, Mid-West, South-East and South-West.

(11)  For more information see the Regional Skills homepage (2016).

(12) DES (2016)

(13) See McNaboe and Condon (2015).

(14) EGFSN. n.d.b.

(15) For Regional Labour Market Bulletins see EGFSN (2016).

(16) For a recent example see McNaboe et al. (2016).

(17) See for example EGFSN (2010).

(18) For a recent example see Ibec (2016).

(19) See for example Forfás (2009) and DJEI (2013).

(20) For a recent example see Behan et al. (2016).

(21) For a recent example see  McNaboe and Condon (2015).