Skills strategy an indication of Labour standing up for working people

27 January 2016

Speaking at the launch of National Skills Strategy

I’m very pleased to be here in Blackrock Further Education Institute to launch the new National Skills Strategy.

This Strategy has been named “Ireland’s Future” and for good reason.

While we will shortly have more than 2 million people at work and unemployment has dropped to 8.8%, we still have a further distance to travel.

Labour in Government has stood up for working people and will continue to do so.

Together with our coalition partners, we are driving a strong recovery that is gradually raising living standards.

But the recovery won’t be complete until there is a job for everyone who wants one.

That also means a wide range of skills, training and education options for our young people so that they have the opportunities they need in life.

In that respect, I’m delighted that the Skills Strategy will pave the way for 50,000 apprenticeship and traineeship places.

The strategy complements the Pathways to Work plan in my own Department.

The goal of Pathways is to ensure that as many jobs as possible go to people on the Live Register, so that the recovery benefits everybody and no one is left behind.

This new Skills Strategy aims to ensure that everyone has the relevant knowledge and skills to get a job and keep it.

Skills development for the long term unemployed will remain a priority, given the link between skills and employment.

People with less secondary education have a far greater risk of being unemployed.

Currently, the unemployment rate for those with lower secondary education or less is 15.7%.

By contrast, that falls to just 5.1% for those with higher education honours degrees or better.

It is therefore crucial that we enable the long-term unemployed to gain the skills required to remain in employment.

The Skills Strategy will support jobseekers to find the best job possible.

It will build on already successful cooperation between my Department and other agencies to match the existing skillsets of the unemployed with job vacancies in client companies of the enterprise development agencies.

In addition to assisting those who are unemployed to gain crucial skills, the strategy also focuses on the need for the upskilling of those who are already in work.

As the economy grows and evolves, those in work will have similarly growing and evolving education and training needs.

Upskilling will be important for everyone in employment, regardless of their occupation or current skill levels. 

Therefore, a key part of this strategy is the acknowledgement of the importance of lifelong learning.

Lifelong learning brings benefits to the individual, to society and to employers.

It makes an important contribution to people’s wellbeing and creates a more inclusive society.

Employers will need to support skills development within their organisations.

Individuals need, to the best of their own abilities, to engage in continuous skills development.

This may be formal or informal, in the workplace or in an educational environment.

What is important is that we all engage with lifelong learning.

In addition to the skills needed to undertake particular jobs, we need to ensure that everyone has a good level of core and basic skills.

In particular we need to pay attention to those who may not be confident in basic literacy.

Therefore during the lifetime of the strategy, a new adult literacy strategy will be developed, to ensure that everyone is given the opportunity to develop these most basic and important of skills.  

We have also set new targets to improve our performance in adult literacy and numeracy in international benchmarks.

This new Skills Strategy helps us look towards the future, and to the creation of a society where the talent and skills of all our people is nurtured, supported and thrives.

Where there is opportunity for all – the hallmark of a decent society.

Thank you.

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