More Irish people need to pursue lifelong learning

By Anne Sexton - Last update


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One in ten Dubliners have engaged in lifelong learning. That’s more than twice as many people in Ireland’s south-east, mid-east and border regions.

Lifelong learning and upskilling has been promoted across Europe and beyond to help adults achieve their career ambitions, stay relevant to the jobs market and learn skills that are important to the economy.

By the end of 2015, 177,330 Irish adults were pursuing some form of ongoing study. That is just over 7 percent of adult population of 2.5 million. The majority of these were taking part in formal learning activities at schools, colleges, universities and other educational institutions. However, Ireland falls short of the European average of 11 percent. The EU hopes to increase this to 15 percent by 2020.

While Dubliners are more likely to enter ongoing education, this is also true of women. Female participation in lifelong learning or upskilling is around 8 percent compared to 6.3 percent of men. Continuous education is more popular with younger adults 13 percent of adults aged 25 to 34 have participated in ongoing education compared to 3 percent of 55 to 64 year olds. Adults with postgraduate degrees are also more likely to pursue ongoing studies as well 12 percent versus 3 percent of early school leavers.

Lifelong learning enhances skills and personal development

The figures come from a study by an Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN). Una Halligan, EGFSN chairwoman, said that continuous education was a necessity for Ireland.

We have a well-educated and highly skilled labour force but it is important that people of all ages and at all educational levels participate in learning and upskilling on an ongoing basis in order to sustain their employability. All forms of learning, whether formal of non-formal, contribute to the skills enhancement and personal development of individuals, she remarked.

Halligan also noted that lifelong learning helped Ireland’s businesses to maintain their competitiveness. In addition, companies who supported the ongoing training had higher employees reporting higher levels of job satisfaction which lead to greater staff retention.

The EGFSN called on the government and industry to invest more in such ongoing learning. The expert group believes this is necessary to meet the predicted skills shortages.


Anne Sexton

Postgrad programme in E-learning Design and Development at CIT
Musical note to UL’s Masters in Classical String Performance programme


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