New targets for VET and lifelong learning
Around EUR 1 billion of funding is invested by the Further Education and Training Authority of Ireland (SOLAS) annually in the Further education and training (FET) sector (where most VET occurs), and approximately 200 000 unique learners take advantage of learning opportunities provided. Most of the funding is channelled through the 16 Education and Training Boards (ETBs) via strategic performance agreements. Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, SOLAS and the ETBs had to pause the strategic performance agreements in 2021;
But in 2022, a new set of agreements covering 2022-24 commenced.
The pandemic had a significant impact on learner numbers and key outcomes across VET, despite the resilience and commitment of staff in keeping learning flowing and supporting learners during this period. The new agreements set out the ETBs plans for the development and innovation of the VET system and include each ETBs contribution to the national system targets agreed upon with the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science. Each strategic performance agreement is unique to the ETB and provides a basis to set out at a local level its key strengths and commitments, as well as its national contribution.
The system targets include reference to areas and themes deemed critically necessary, such as employment outcomes, progression to higher education and lifelong learning, while also incorporating key national priorities, such as green skills and workforce reskilling. As the agreements are implemented, it is anticipated that the VET system will reboot the activity and outcome levels before the pandemic and grow further. The national system targets include five themes (supporting jobs, learning pathways, facilitating inclusion, upskilling through life and careers, and targeting key skills needs).
By the end of 2024
The VET system is expected to: Increase its employment outcomes by over 10% on pre-pandemic levels and reskill around 20 000 unemployed learners per year;
- refocus on pathways within VET, expanding learning mobility between VET and higher education by up to 25%;
- sharply increase certification of transversal skills and widen the participation of crucial target groups by at least 10% on pre-pandemic levels while adding 10 000 places in support of the Adult literacy for life (ALL) 10-year strategy;
- grow lifelong learning participation beyond pre-COVID levels while doubling the scale of the Skills to advance workforce upskilling initiative;
- further, expand provision focused on critical skills needs by 15% and embed green skill modules across all VET curricula/training courses.
New mechanisms to review and support ETBs throughout the delivery of the new agreements include innovative elements, such as a ‘live’ system data dashboard.
Read more from – Adult literacy for life (ALL)10-year strategy