26NCGE NEWS Summer 2011AdultFuture Skills Needs: Reflections on the National and Local LandscapeWithin the last five years, Ireland has seen a significant change in the national employment profile. This process of change has been advanced by a number of factors, including the economic downturn and accompanying recession, rapid advancements in communications technologies as well as increasing reliance on IT systems and solutions. These factors have contributed to more technology and science based approaches within industry, as a vehicle for economic recovery and prosperity. In this article, Mary Connell, Adult Guidance Information Officer, in Co Laois Adult Educational Guidance Service details the changing social and economic landscape and the vital role education plays in an individual's ability to adapt.Traditional manufacturing industries are declining and there is a move towards the emerging industries of 'neurofacturing' (creating value through knowledge work rather than physical labour). In this area, higher skill levels and third or fourth level qualifications are key aspects to employment longevity. In fact, there has been significant growth in the numbers of professional job opportunities being advertised over the past year. The Morgan McKinley Irish Employment Monitor has recorded a 46% increase in the number of such vacancies in the second quarter of 2011 compared to the same period in 2010. In tandem with these shifts, long term employment trends have seen an increase in services-based employment relative to industry and manufacturing, which has in turn raised the demand for more knowledge and people-based skills. Sectors, such as food and beverage, where according to Forfas, 62% of workers have low levels of formal education are seeing an increase in those with third and fourth level qualifications. While future growth is predicted in this area, the range of employment opportunities will be concentrated in food science, product development and research and development. Educational and skill requirements may necessitate higher level study.Rapid change across industry will have many challenges for future jobseekers and for those entering and re-entering education and training. Those working in sectors such as construction and related fields have seen the virtual collapse of career and progression structures within their sector. Workers must now re-develop their skills in different and/or related career areas. Numerous skills are transferable and certain core skills are especially in demand.Many adult learners have an awareness of the reality of the world of work. Returning to education can play a vital role in the consolidation of existing skills and the development of new ones especially in respect of 'soft skills' such as: the ability to work collaboratively, to communicate effectively, to assimilate new knowledge and adapt to changing circumstances. These skills may be core to many new employment opportunities.
27According to Mark Deegan, Industrial Placement Coordinator in DIT; 'The skills that employers are looking for from graduates are as much to do with their ability to work in a professional environment and to work as part of a team and, crucially their ability to communicate and to learn'. (O'Brien, L, 2011)Central to assisting those who are navigating the 'new employment world' is an understanding of the relationship between education and career over the lifespan and the changing nature of employment opportunities. In order to be 'employment ready' in a fast changing environment, adults need to learn how to assess their own strengths, skills and abilities, so as to make the most effective choices in relation to education and training. In parallel, the education and training sector needs to be responsive to changing skills requirements within and across sectors, in order to ensure that the provision available to adults is relevant to the labour market. The Expert Group on Future Skills Needs reports on the Green Economy, the Wholesale and Retail Sector and the Food and Beverages sector illustrate the rising skills requirements that are taking place, even in occupations that in the past may have been considered as relatively low skilled. The Further Education and Training sector has a central role in addressing requirements such as these in order to provide the optimal outcomes for both learners and enterprises.Within the navigation process, information is a key component. From a national perspective, the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs has completed extensive research into the skill and competency requirements of many employment sectors into the future. Although there are requirements specific to certain sectors, commonalities across all areas have also been identified.AdultFuture Skills Needs: Reflections on the National and Local Landscape continuedNCGE NEWS Winter 2011Within occupations there is likely to be demand for:. Increasing breadth of knowledge. Increased share of knowledge work/reduced share of routine work. Rising qualification and technical skills requirements. Importance of continued Learning. Significance of regulation. Skills for dealing with others.. Skills in sales and marketing, research and development, management and languages (Colgan, A, 2011)In terms of a national picture, there is an emphasis on the breadth and share of knowledge, collaboration, lifelong learning, inter-personal relationships, regulatory frameworks, managing ourselves and our relationship with others and the important role of effectively marketing what we make, together with linguistic ability and on-going research and development. This gives a concise overview of skill development areas for both individuals and providers of education and training. Significantly, there is an emphasis placed on the integration of different types of knowledge required and the inter-disciplinary nature of employment in the future. Skills for innovation have become central in the 21st Century workplace, and these are often misunderstood as being only required within highly skilled occupations. The Expert Group on Future Skills Needs report on Creativity Innovation and Design highlighted how innovation can originate at virtually all levels of an organisation, whether it is a retail assistant providing customer feedback to management, or a software engineer designing a new programme. Skills for innovation, therefore, need to be considered in broad occupational context.