National platform to close digital skills gap

New €400,000 research project driven by Learnovate aims to create platform to develop core digital and data skills.

A new national skills platform —which will be the first of its kind in Ireland — is being developed by a partnership of public and private organisations to help close Ireland’s digital skills gap.

The €400,000 collaborative research project is being driven by Learnovate, Ireland’s future of work and learning research hub in Trinity College Dublin, with partners global technology company Cisco and the national workforce development agency Skillnet Ireland.

The project is recognised by Skillnet Ireland, The Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science and IDA Ireland and will be significant for meeting the needs of Ireland’s future economy and society.

Skills platform

The first phase of the collaborative research project was officially launched by Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris and the aim is that this research will inform the development of a prototype of the skills platform.

“As a knowledge-based economy, the development of digital and data skills is of huge strategic importance for the country as all sectors nationally and locally prepare for digital transformation and a new age of skills requirements,” Minister Harris said.

The project is led by Learnovate and co-funded by Skillnet Ireland and Cisco through its Country Digital Acceleration Programme.

Learnovate Centre director Nessa McEniff explained that the goal is to create a platform dedicated to the development of core digital and data skills and the matching of individuals to roles that suit their skills.

“Learnovate is excited to partner with Cisco and Skillnet Ireland to deliver a research project that so closely aligns with our research agenda on the future of work and learning and helps cement Ireland’s global status as leaders in the development of the next generation workforce.”

The prototype platform will provide a self-assessment tool to allow individual users to analyse their own capabilities, standardise digital skills required for different job roles, identify skill gaps for a particular role and recommend relevant learning course journey maps.

It will also provide a roadmap for career progression by detailing the skills they would require to move into more senior roles.

“With businesses, public services and education relying on technology more than ever before, digital skills are now critical for jobs in almost every industry and for the wider economy,” said Cisco Ireland and Scotland managing director Shane Heraty.

“We urgently need to reskill and upskill the nation to power the next decade of digital innovation, boost the digital economy, and improve lives across Ireland. For real momentum in addressing this challenge, collaboration between industry and government is crucial, and that is why Cisco is delighted to be partnering with Learnovate and Skillnet Ireland in this initiative.”

The aim is that some of the platform’s key components will include:

  • An engine that matches digital/data skills to specific roles
  • A self-assessment tool for core digital/data skills
  • An ‘in-the-flow-of-work’ learning solution to target gaps.

Following prototype development, the platform may be developed as a global skills assessment and development platform.

“Talent in the areas of digital and data is a major focus for Skillnet Ireland and is key to the growth of our economy,” said Skillnet Ireland chief strategy officer Mark Jordan.

“This innovative platform will help address the shortage of digital and data skills and how Irish businesses go about developing their people, while using technology to transform upskilling delivery methods. By bringing together the key industry, higher education and research players, including IDA Ireland, this partnership with Learnovate and Cisco will lead to greater capacity for innovation across all sectors and increased opportunities for digital upskilling for Ireland’s workforce.”

Workshops held with Irish companies identified a shortage of core digital and data skills as an issue affecting industry. This project aims to provide solutions to the common challenges faced by Irish companies in relation to learning and development, talent, and Human Resources. The project is being launched as demand for digital and data skills is expected to grow.

The project also comes as 2023 marks the start of the European Year of Skills and the EU’s Digital Decade plan. A key goal of the EU’s Digital Decade is to place people at the centre of digital transformation by ensuring at least 80% of the population has developed basic digital skills. This research project recognises the critical importance of bridging the widening digital and data skills gap to the Irish economy.

IDA Ireland’s Head of Talent, Transformation & Innovation Breda O’Toole added: “As businesses in all industry sectors adopt digital technologies and become data-driven organisations, digital and data skills will become fundamental across the workforce.

“Ireland has a strong global reputation for our high-quality talent; to ensure we continue to have the skills for our society and economy to thrive, we must invest in new ways to enable people to develop their capabilities and careers. IDA Ireland welcomes the news that funding from Cisco’s Country Digital Acceleration Programme and Skillnet Ireland will support Learnovate to commence this research project.”

John Kennedy
Award-winning editor John Kennedy is one of Ireland's most experienced business and technology journalists.