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You can't stop progress, but you can prepare for it.

The OECD has called skills ‘the new global currency of 21st Century economies’.  By providing workers with increased skills, countries can ensure that globalisation translates into job creation and increased productivity, rather than negative economic and social outcomes.

Ireland’s performance on digital skills is concerning (see Chart 1).  Over 50 per cent of the population have low or basic digital skills and almost 20 per cent have no digital skills. 

The skills that are easiest to automate or outsource are routine technical skills. Educational success is now about creative and critical approaches to problem solving, decision making and persuasion, applying the knowledge that we have to different situations. It is about the capacity to live in a multifaceted world as an active and engaged citizen. 

According to the World Economic Forum (2018) without investment in our social welfare, training, skills development and education systems we risk facing into an era of technological change accompanied by job losses, mass unemployment, growing inequality and skills shortages.  This report also points to the skills that will be in demand by 2022 which include analytical thinking and innovation, technology competencies, active learning creativity, originality and initiative, critical thinking, persuasion and negotiation.   Ongoing skills development and lifelong learning for people in employment and people who are not in employment must become an integral part of the education system.

The Human Capital Initiative launched in Budget 2019 is a welcome development in lifelong learning and skills development.  This initiative must be linked with Further Education, Lifelong Learning and Adult Education and Literacy priorities and strategies. 

An education and training strategy focussed on preparing people for the impact of digitalisation and what the transitions within the workforce that this transformation will mean should be developed.  This strategy must be flexible enough to adapt to regional needs, fully funded and linked to the National Skills Strategy, the Human Capital Initiative and Ireland 2040.  People with low skill levels in particular must be a focus of this strategy.