Irish workers open to gaining new skills

More than half of people surveyed have learned a new skill in the past year as the benefits go beyond financial gain.

More and more Irish people are open to learning a new skill.

Government-funded research revealed that more than half of those surveyed have taken on the challenge over the past year.

“Learning a new skill goes beyond finding a new job, or getting promoted, the research shows that it can improve mental health and confidence, and even help people widen their circle of friends”

The Year of Skills was launched by Education Minister Simon Harris, TD, in May with a call to action for everyone in the country to put skills at the centre for this year – and to take the opportunity to learn a new skill.

Research carried out by Amarach on behalf of the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, found that this message had resonated with many, with 54% of those surveyed saying they had learned a new skill this year.

Passion to learn

“We are now more than half way through the Year of Skills, and I’m delighted that so many people have taken the opportunity to pursue something new,” Minister Harris explained.

“Learning a new skill goes beyond finding a new job, or getting promoted, the research shows that it can improve mental health and confidence, and even help people widen their circle of friends.

“As we begin 2024, I am once again issuing our call to action – take some time to consider something you always wanted to do or learn, and go after it.

“It could be a change of career, or something that will help you in your current one, but it just as easily could be something you are passionate about but never had the time to take on before now.

“There are courses and pathways available for everyone, so let’s take advantage of all the opportunities available, and help drive both our economy and societal wellbeing.”

Some of the key findings from the Amárach research included:

  • Almost 9 in 10 (86%) are interested in learning a new skill in the near future;
  • Females (92%), younger ages (97%), those in employment (93%), postgrads (93%), those with children under 18 (91%), and those who know others who have learned a new skill (93%) are most likely to be interested in pursuing one too;
  • Self-development (57%) is the main motivation for learning a new skill, followed by interest in the subject (47%) and to improve job skills (47%).
  • Among those who have learned a new skill, a significant majority (92%) say it has boosted their confidence, improved their mental and physical well-being (88%) and helped them in their careers (68%).
  • Seven in ten (69%) have made new friends, just over half inspired friends and family to learn a new skill (52%), and just under half (47%) said it had helped them earn more money.

Year of Skills

The launch of the Year of Skills in May coincided with the publication of the OECD Ireland Skills Strategy Report, which found participation in lifelong learning here, while above the EU average, is not enough to make Ireland one of the world leaders in this area.

There is however a rich offering of learning opportunities available to those who wish to upskill and reskill, ranging from short courses, microcredentials and part time provision to full time post graduate programmes.

“Providing affordable, flexible, agile options for upskilling is key to ensuring that opportunities are available for everyone no matter what stage you are in your life,” said Dr Vivienne Patterson, Head of Skills in the Higher Education Authority (HEA).

“The higher education system will continue to contribute to increasing Irelands lifelong learning metrics by delivering relevant skills training informed by research and enterprise engagement in 2024.”

“We welcome the strong participation in the call to learn something new during EU Year of Skills,” Nessa White, executive director of Transformation at SOLAS, the Further Education & Training Authority, said.

“Lifelong learning is for everyone, with the Further Education and Training (FET) sector playing a vital role in providing learners with the opportunity to engage in learning within their local communities regardless of any previous levels of education, with pathways to take them as far as they want to go.

“There is no better time to upskill and reskill close to home through smart and flexible FET courses delivered nationwide by Education and Training Board network and eCollege. This new year, we encourage everyone to explore the wealth of opportunities to learn a new skill in their local area.”

Skillnet Ireland Chief Executive Paul Healy added: “Our Skillnet Business Networks and dedicated talent initiatives, deliver the skills solutions businesses need to compete and grow.

“Fostering greater participation in lifelong learning across Ireland is essential and will only increase in importance over the coming years. Globally, the digital transformation, climate change, and other issues – are rapidly transforming the skills individuals need to effectively participate in work and society.

“We look forward to engaging more businesses, and their talent, in upskilling, reskilling, and developing talent in their teams.”

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