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Transforming Higher Education



A New Skills Policy for a New Economy
Irish Congress of Trades Unions, spring 2011


Given the high and rising unemployment levels in Ireland, the Irish Congress of Trades Unions (ICTU) has published a report advocating for the upskilling of the country’s existing workforce as a key public agenda item geared towards achieving sustained economic and social development.


In the report, the congress sets out its view of how Ireland’s Vocational Education and Training (VET) system should develop going forward, the opportunities and challenges ahead, and argues for prioritizing the maintenance of a coordinated VET system.  As such, the paper is intended to contribute towards a vision for the restructuring of Ireland’s VET system.


Key points include:

  1. Investment in skills brings an increase to GNP.
  2. The focus should be on areas that increase overall effectiveness.  This includes the creation of a credible system for recognition of prior learning to allow adults to focus on acquiring additional skills.
  3. The creation of a new skills agency that would provide a wide range of courses through work-based learning with the model based on the existing apprenticeship system.
  4. The national training fund should be augmented by diverting 0.7 per cent of the workers’ contribution to fund individual and collective upskilling.
  5. A credible governance structure to the VET system must include roles for employers and unions.


ICTU sees a need for a national public debate on the issue of employment programs, training offerings and the conditions that are attached to those types of programs.  Overall, this organization seeks recognition that “skills are the engine room of the economy” and therefore the time has come to reform Ireland’s VET system to meet that reality.


The full report is available here.



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