"Skilled Labor in Positioning Ireland as the Celtic Tiger."
"Skilled Labor in Positioning Ireland as the Celtic Tiger."
Vocational Education Reform in Ireland
Member Higher Education Authority Ireland
Former Lead Education Specialist
Ireland: a relatively poor agricultural
country in 1960s
• From 1960s onwards, investment in human capital
became a strategic objective as part of the national
• New Educational Policies, Programs and
Implementing Agencies developed throughout the
1990s and into the 21st century
• Many developments at tertiary level; but the report
and this presentation focus on second level.
Vision for Change: 1960s
• Education inheritance was a sharply differentiated two-tier
post-primary system – academically oriented secondary
schools and narrowly focused vocational schools.
• By mid 1960s a series of reforms was introduced which
included a strategy to broaden access and increase
flexibility through the creation of new institutional models
while introducing new curricula and pedagogical services
to existing second level schools.
• Universal free post primary education immediately
increased participation rates.
Spurs to Education and Training
EU Membership: 1973
Efficient and effective use of Social Funds
Policies for inward investment (FDI)
Parallel development of human capital to
provide well educated and trained
Economy: 1970- 1992
• Unemployment: in the late 1980s and early
1990s peaked at around 17 percent, with
higher rates for school leavers.
• High rates of emigration; thousands of
secondary school and university graduates
left the country every year.
Economy: 1992- 2007
• Average GDP growth rate of 4.8 percent between
1990-95 and 9.5 percent growth from 1995-2000!
• Since 2000, the per capita GDP of Ireland has
grown at annual rates of 2.5 %– 4.2%,
substantially exceeding the EU average in every
year. In 2003, Ireland had the second highest
GDP per capita within the enlarged EU -- almost
one-third higher than the EU 25 average.
• Unemployment: 4.5% in 2007.
Debates and Policies
• In 1987 the first of five agreements with the social partners created a
stable and secure environment for national planning and for investment
• OECD reports: in 1962 and 1991 and the International Adult Literacy
Survey in 1995 ( pub. 2000).
• Culliton Report: A Time for Change: Industrial Policy for the 1990s,
emphasized the need to improve the link between education and the
• Government discussion paper Education for a Changing World ( 1992)
and White Paper, Changing Our Education Future (1995) led to the
Education Act (1998).
• The Expert Group on Future Skills Needs report, Tomorrow’s Skills:
Towards a National Skills Strategy, March 2007.
Structural changes to create
improved labor market linkages
Less narrow and rigid vocational schools;
Comprehensive curriculum in all schools:
expanded choice of academic and practical
subjects, including world of work and ICT.
• Proportion of students enrolled in C&C and
Vocational Schools rise from 31.4% in 1978 to
44.8 % in 2005.
Programs to improve relevance of
Second Level Education
Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme.
Leaving Certificate Applied Programme.
Schools' Business Partnership programme.
Pre Employment Courses.
Vocational Preparation and Training
programmes, ( Post Leaving Certificate)
Implementation, Monitoring and
• Autonomous organisations which include
employers, teachers’ unions and other key
stakeholders in their governance structure include:
• National Qualifications Authority of Ireland;
• National Council for Curriculum and Assessment;
• State Examinations Commission;
• Further Education and Training Awards Council.
FÁS (Training and Employment
• community employment schemes;
• job placement and guidance services;
• specific skills training and re-training,
including apprenticeship training.
Outcomes ( 1)
• PISA 2003: reading literacy: 7; mathematics: 20; science:
16 ( out of 40 countries).
• Leaving Certificate Participation Rates: rise from 66%
(1982), 80 % ( 1993) to 82 % in 2002.
• 86.1% completion upper secondary (2005).
• 55% enrolled in tertiary education ( 2004).
• 83% completion rates for university degree programmes
• 87% completion rates for Institute of Technology degree
• 70% completion rates for certificate and diploma level
courses and 72% for apprenticeship programmes.
• Low unemployment rates ( 4.5%).
• Capacity to use ES Funds efficiently.
• Highly trained workforce an attraction for
Foreign Direct Investment.
• Capacity for evidence based policy analysis.
• Well developed monitoring and evaluation
mechanisms for education sector.
• Demographics: rising numbers will stress education
infrastructure and teachers.
• Labor Market forecasts predict more jobs for those with
higher level skills and demand for expertise in science and
• Deteriorating competitiveness ( high inflation and strong
• New patent applications and R&D investment lagging.
• Government investment in all levels of education relatively
low at 4.6%.
• Secondary completion rates of 86% are
below the Government target of 92%.
• Scientific and mathematical literacy
performance inconsistent with Government
objectives to make Ireland a high
performing Knowledge Economy.
• Participation in LLL low. ( 14% of 22-65
year olds in continuous learning in 2002).
Expert Skills Group
• Spearheaded by Ministry of Enterprise,
Trade and Employment – not Education!
• Identification of future skills' needs.
• Detailed programme with measurable
targets, benchmarks and estimated costs
Targets: by 2020
• Increase retention from 82 % percent to 90% at
Leaving Certificate Level ;
• Raise the proportion of the workforce with NFQ
level 4 or 5 awards to 94%;
• Raise progression from secondary school to higher
education from 55 percent in 2004 to 72 percent;
Vocational Training Courses for students who do
not complete upper secondary education to lead to
a qualification within the National Framework of
Qualifications and lead to certification, ideally at
levels 4 & 5.
Skills for the Future
• Basic/fundamental skills — such as literacy, numeracy, IT
• People-related skills — such as communication,
interpersonal, team-working and customer-service skills.
• Conceptual/thinking skills — such as collecting and
organising information, problem-solving, planning and
organising, learning-to-learn skills, innovation and
creativity skills, systematic thinking.
• Scientific literacy, enterprise skills and broader citizenship
Implications for Education and
• Capacity: issues such as infrastructure, the
number and quality of teachers, the provision of
adequate counselling and guidance services and
the availability of relevant work experience
opportunities are already looming for the post
• Cost: the proposed upskilling to levels 3, 4 and 5
is estimated over a thirteen year period at €153
million per annum; the cost of upskilling at higher
levels is estimated over a thirteen year period at
€304 million per annum.
• Vocational Education and Training has diversified and
modernised, has attracted considerable financing and is
regarded as relevant and successful.
• The key lesson is that a cohesive approach through
national consensus building with all stakeholders involved
has been a very successful approach to implementing
education reform and modernisation in Ireland. Although
there were changes of Government during the 1990s in
Ireland, there was agreement and continuity among
education and non education stakeholders about the vision,
strategy and main policy agenda that had been developed
using the consultative process discussed above.
• Ireland has good and flexible vocational education provision with
strong labour market linkages.
• The global competitiveness challenge means that the labor market will
require employees with broad, transferable skills with a good
grounding in mathematics and science.
• There will be a perpetual need to revise curricula and to keep teachers
trained and up to date and capable of imparting constantly changing
specific skills as the need arises.
• The policy making capacity and vision for the future exists as does the
detailed mapping of the way forward.
• Sustained and increased investment in the educational and training
infrastructure will be required immediately and for the foreseeable