Skills policies as drivers of development
5.2.3. A case study: Coordinating skills development for
sustainable dynamic growth in Ireland
350. Ireland has experienced extraordinary growth in productivity, employment, wages
and national income since the mid-1990s. During the 1980s, it adopted a development
vision and common understanding which recognized that, through high levels of
education and training, the country could produce skills that would drive productivity,
innovation and entrepreneurship, create competitive advantages and boost employment.
The Irish National Development Plan and the ten-year social partnership agreement
Towards 2016 provide the framework for national policy-making (Shanahan and Hand,
2008). Ireland’s skills, industrial, labour market and research policies are highly
interconnected through a network of interlinked organizations and an institutional
framework that enables effective policy coordination between the various policy areas.
The social partners are important informants, consultants and sustainers of the process.
351. Education and training policies are coordinated at the ministerial level by the
Department of Education and Science (DES) which, for example, coordinates the
planning and development of general and vocational education institutes through the
Vocational Education Committees and the Higher Education Authority. The Department
of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (DETE) is responsible for enterprise training and
labour force development and, through its tripartite national Training and Employment
Authority (FAS), coordinates the Irish apprenticeship scheme and continuous vocational
training for the labour force, including training programmes for the unemployed.
352. The future demand for and supply of skills are coordinated through forward-
looking skills development policies based on a skills forecasting and labour market
information system. In 1997, the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN) was set
up by the Government to monitor all sectors of the Irish economy and to identify current
or future skills shortages. The Board of the Expert Group comprises representatives of
government departments, the social partners, science and research and education and
training authorities. This network provides effective channels for the collection of
information and advice from all stakeholders in the economy and for the dissemination
of the information produced by the skills identification system to the respective policy
fields, including R&D, industry, labour market and skills development.
353. The Expert Group, together with the National Training and Employment Authority
(FAS), which is responsible for the provision of training and employment services,
“translates” the information produced by the skills identification system into skills
development. The Expert Group advises the ministries responsible for education and
enterprise development, trade and employment (the DETE and the DES respectively),
thereby contributing to policy coherence in the skills development system. The National
Development Plan Gender Equality Unit also contributes to this institutional strength,
contributing information on gender equality in training, occupational segregation, men
and women in training, apprenticeships and company-sponsored training, and offering
suggestions for the improvement of accessibility and the reduction of segregation in
training and employment.
354. The institutional strength in the country aids coordination in many other ways (as
summarized in figure 5.3). Institutions that promote national enterprises (Enterprise
Ireland) and attract FDI (IDA Ireland) cooperate through the National Policy and
Advisory Board for Enterprise, Trade, Science, Technology and Innovation (Forfás) with
a view to fostering skills and technology spillovers from foreign to domestic enterprises.
The fact sheet is available at http://www.ndpgenderequality.ie (January 2008).