Many adults risk being ‘left behind’ in jobs due to lack of upskilling

Higher Education Minister Simon Harris is due to present the report to Cabinet today© Gareth Chaney

Gabija Gataveckaite

Many adults face being left behind in their jobs because they don’t have the right skills to thrive and are unprepared for changes in the workplace, a new report will warn ministers.

Ireland is falling behind countries who are on top of upskilling across the EU by 40pc, even though participation here is still above the EU average.

Irish employers have now expressed significant concerns over labour and skills gaps because the imbalance of skills in the labour market is high, according to a new OECD report.

The stark findings will be brought to the Cabinet by Higher Education Minister Simon Harris today.

There is a “significant shortage” in digital skills, which include knowledge of software, coding, data analytics, STEM subjects and management, the report found, with 30pc of adults having less than basic digital skills.

“It is particularly worrying that adults with comparatively weak socio-economic profiles (eg, lower social classes, low education levels) self-report that their digital skills are below average,” the report states.

Lack of motivation is given as one of the main reasons in not taking part in upskilling courses. However, the amounts of people who did not upskill and who did not want to do so “is among the lowest in the EU”.

Family reasons, schedule and costs are some of the main barriers to upskilling, or “life-long learning”, which is learning that is self-motivated and continuous.

Around a third of individuals are over-qualified for their jobs, which leads to “wage penalties”.

Jobs could be better designed to stimulate the use of employee skills through work flexibility, teamwork and performance-based pay, the report states.

Large multinational corporations are much more likely to use new solutions to increase productivity.

For example, putting in place new technologies has opened up “significant productivity gaps” between foreign companies in comparison to local businesses, according to the research.

This has led to significant differences in pay for employees between the two types of businesses.

However, the Government has “significant opportunities” to improve the Irish skills ­system.

The report recommends that several government departments take a more active role in tackling problems with skills, not just the Department of Further and Higher Education.

The report also recommends that subsidised upskilling be offered to managers to increase the “value of support” they can offer their staff.

Businesses should also use innovative solutions to improve productivity and the standard of employee work.

Parents, carers, people with low education or skills and those who have been unemployed for long periods of time could benefit from upskilling, the report stated.

Parents especially need support if they decide to take up life-long learning.

Almost 30pc of adults who want to take part in it cannot due to cost, the report says.

Confusion around costs, grants and entitlements can also be a “major barrier” for those who are vulnerable but want to learn.

When it comes to finding suitable and affordable courses, they may not be aware of the extent of the ­supports available to them.

The OECD Ireland Skills Strategy Report sets out a detailed road map, comprising 24 recommendations, for meeting the challenges identified.

Launching the report, Further and Higher Education Minister Simon Harris said he would report back to Government shortly on the next steps, including the need to consider a new Skills Act.

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