The Year of Skills represents a call to action for Ireland’s further and higher education, and industry sectors along with government and state agencies to work together to address the global challenge represented by the scale and pace of change in the world of work.
Learning as we know it has changed dramatically to meet these challenges. Some 94 per cent of business leaders now expect employees to pick up new skills on the job – a sharp rise from 65 per cent in 2018, while half of all employees will need to reskill by 2025.
Eurostat figures for 2021 show that just under 14 per cent of workers aged 25 to 65 in Ireland participate in lifelong learning to bolster their professional development. This is up significantly from just 6.5 per cent in 2016, but still well below participation rates of as high as 34 per cent in Sweden and 30 per cent in Finland.
The EU’s lifelong learning target is for at least 60 per cent of the adult population to participate in some form of training every year by 2030.
So what is University of Limerick (UL) doing to achieve this?
UL has been a pioneer in the development of skills and in supporting lifelong learning. UL’s unrivalled links with industry have led to programmes that focus on real world needs in a relevant, innovative, and empowering manner.
Starting from its cooperative education programme in undergraduate level, UL leverages its extensive industry connections to enable it to be ahead of the curve when it comes to work ready skills development for graduates and lifelong learning opportunities for those in the workforce.
UL is committed to developing pathways for students to progress through higher education, providing flexibility for all students and facilitating lifelong learning through the availability of micro-credentials, stackable degrees and through the recognition of prior learning.
From cutting edge programmes in emerging fields such as Data Analytics for Business and Finance, Artificial Intelligence and Renewable Energy to developing work embedded learning for full-time programmes with industry partners, UL is working to ensure the future skills needs of industry and business are being developed.
UL launched the first doctoral apprenticeship in the world to allow employees to develop the skills to become principal engineers to manage and strategically manage product, process or service portfolios within an enterprise.
Three master’s level apprenticeships which were the first in Ireland were accredited addressing skills needs in Equipment Systems Engineering, Lean Sigma and Supply Chain Management at a management level in the enterprise.
UL has a long history of looking at the future skills needs with industry, through pioneering programmes for skills development such as Equine Studies, Centre for Project Management and Centre for Taxation Studies in the Kemmy Business School and the Science and Engineering Flexible Learning Centre.
A whole of university approach feeds into this success. The faculties are responsible the development and delivery of the courses, while Graduate and Professional Studies (GPS) markets these courses and recruits students.
As part of government policy to increase numbers, funding has been provided for the UL@Work project within GPS which is to dedicated to the provision of flexible learning programmes to enable upskilling and reskilling to meet the digital needs of Irish society.
UL@Work offers a range of online programmes co-designed and co-delivered with industry to enable upskilling and reskilling for professional development in the age of digital transformation.
The flexible part-time, online programmes have been created with working professionals in mind, allowing you to fit professional education into your busy schedule.
UL@Work launched a one-of-a-kind master’s programme, designed for working professionals who want to take their career to the next level and gain the skills, knowledge and qualifications needed to excel in their chosen field.
The Master of Professional Practice combines three Professional Diplomas stacked over five years across all faculties at University of Limerick. Professionals can stack programmes from other educational institutions (not just UL) across disciplines of interest and value, from AI, Data Analytics and Cybersecurity to Strategic Leadership and Human Resource Management to Communications and Law and Technology.
The future is small
University of Limerick has been at the forefront of a new national project looking at skills needs.
MicroCreds has been created to empower lifelong learning in Ireland by re-imagining learner’s relationship with education through agile, accessible, and bite-sized accredited qualifications: micro-credentials.
This national project, funded by the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science’s (DFHERIS) and National Training Fund via the Human Capital Initiative, has established a National Framework that standardises the awarding of MicroCreds across Ireland so that learners’ qualifications are nationally recognised, the first in Europe.
The QS Higher Education Summit Europe 2023 held in Dublin in June heard that over half of people considering microcredentials are prompted by specific skills needs and the role that they play in innovating Ireland’s approach to skills development.
University of Limerick had developed micro-credentials in collaboration with enterprises in cutting-edge areas such as AI and machine learning, sustainable practices, and supply chain management.
UL is the largest provider in Ireland and it originated the concept as the University Certificate of Study in 2013.
Launching the MicroCreds project, UL President Professor Kerstin Mey said: “Ireland has an extremely ambitious lifelong learning target of 60 per cent of adults engaging in some form of upskilling by 2030. These micro-credentials, which were informed by enterprise and quality assured by leading universities offer a perfect solution to help Ireland to reach these targets.
“The flexibility and agility of micro-credentials means learners can address specific skills needs in a way that suits them. University of Limerick has developed micro-credentials in collaboration with enterprises in areas such as AI and machine learning, sustainable organisations and supply chain management,” she added.
Listening is key
Committed to educating the professional workforce, the University of Limerick offers fully accredited programmes at certificate, diploma, degree, master’s and doctorate levels that combine the latest industry-relevant knowledge with best-practice techniques and the flexibility to study while working.
The success of UL in this area is down to collaboration. UL is listening to the needs of industry and the government strategies to anticipate and plan for the future.
UL engages with business to design and develop a wide range of industry relevant and academically rigorous programmes that address specific skills and knowledge across multiple sectors both regionally and nationally, allowing individuals the opportunity to upgrade their skills, switch careers, or stay updated with the latest advancements in their respective fields.
With its flexibly delivered, work friendly programmes UL provides a structured and supportive environment that equips individuals with the knowledge, practical experience, and resources needed to adapt to a rapidly evolving world and continuously enhance their skills throughout their lives.
This collaborative environment facilitates networking and peer-learning opportunities, enabling individuals to connect with like-minded peers, mentors, and industry experts. These interactions can lead to valuable learning experiences and skill development through knowledge sharing and collaborative projects.
Michael Hennessy, Head of Flexible Learning in the Faculty of Science and Engineering has been to the forefront of professional education provision in UL for nearly two decades.
He said: “Innovation is central to any successful course. We are working in partnership with industry to create courses that will address current and future needs across the Irish economy.
“Flexible learning is providing opportunity for those in the workforce to develop skills necessary to maintain their employability. Bitesize micro credentials and stackable degrees and masters allow them to design an education programme that fits their career path and aspirations.
“We have developed a student-centred approach to flexible learning, cognisant of the other demands that our students have”, he added.
For more information visit UL’s Graduate and Professional Studies.
Check out Microcredentials for more details.
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