Skill Shortage Survey Identifies Key Areas for Third Level and Further Education

skills shortagesThere is increasing concern at the skill shortages in Ireland that see 36% of companies advertising positions and hiring employees from overseas. While some employers are satisfied with the skills of Irish graduates, over a third of employers are reaching outside the country because there are gaps in the skill sets on offer.

Survey Findings

These findings are from a recently published survey of involving over 400 Irish and foreign companies. The study was commissioned by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) who welcomed the results as it provided information for changes needed in the third level education sector.

Two thirds of companies expressed confidence that the right transferable and workplace skills were possessed by graduates and that relevant subject knowledge and discipline for their jobs. In spite of public concerns that industry leaders have stated in recent years, over 80% of company were satisfied with the calibre of science and maths graduates.

Despite this high level of satisfaction, half of all companies participating in the survey wanted to see stronger engagement between industry and higher education institutes. The 36% of survey respondents that recruited from non-Irish education establishments blamed an insufficient number of available graduates with the right skills, particularly in Information Technology and Computing.

Further concerns were expressed about soft skills with the graduates ability to communicate effectively particularly in writing. The attitude of graduates was of significant concern with one common theme – graduates possessing the “right attitude” for the position. More employers are paying attention to these kinds of detail, often using psychometric testing and aptitude tests as well as conventional interview techniques.

The HEA report was designed with the assistance of employer bodies ISME, IBEC, Chambers Ireland, Small Firms’ Association, and American Chamber of Commerce.

Assessing the Choice of Third Level Courses

While the results of the survey show that Irish education is producing the right kind of skilled people to drive future development of the economy, there is room for improvement and it is quite clear that collaboration between industry and higher education must develop stronger links.

Clearly, students need to make informed decisions regarding their choice of third level course and match their skills to courses that best suit them rather than just points chasing. For sustainable careers, commercial decisions made at this stage could be the difference between a secure career and endless job search. Students need advice to read ahead to the demands of the employment market three or four years hence. Unless there are specific specialist courses a student wishes to pursue, more generalist courses such as science or humanities will keep options available for them.

Non-Academic Skills

It is interesting to note that expertise in a specific skills area is not enough and communication skills and people skills are equally important as business relies heavily on teamwork, interaction between staff members and customers. Graduates who need assistance in this area can avail of one of the many communication skills modules available at further education institutes or participate in elective modules throughout their third level years.

Technology Expansion

In particular the information technology sector worldwide is expanding and Ireland needs skilled graduates work in emerging technology areas like cloud computing. Increasingly, the shift in global IT will need new kinds of IT professionals such as data scientists and cloud architects to create efficient virtual platforms cost effectively that will replace the traditional infrastructures of IT. They need to be big thinkers who can make sense of the data volumes generated by business, public sector, and general population.

There is no reason why Ireland cannot be at the forefront of the revolution. A new information age is approaching where jobs will offer exciting developments for those entering this sector. As well as the new technology, there is still a demand that cannot be fulfilled for software developers, computer programmers, support personnel with foreign languages and support technicians.

Opting in to IT courses will improve not only graduate’s chances of gaining employment, but for anyone looking to change career or retrain. It opens up the job market in the IT industry, financial services, life science, and clean energy, which require IT skills.

Pathways to this growth area can also be achieved by retraining, undertaking courses that will build up enough knowledge and accreditation to complement leaving certificate points, industry or life experience in order to attain the required entry level for specific third level courses. Knowing what industry to target for employment is half the battle for any student.

Denise Colebrooke

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Adult Learners Festival 2013

adult learners festivalThis year sees the seventh annual Adult Learners Festival. Aos Oideachais Náisiúnta Trí Aontú Saorálach (AONTAS) – the national adult learning centre are once again running this highly anticipated event, which will take place from February 25th to March 2nd this year. The success of previous years will be built upon as different organisations around Ireland hold events in their own locality to encourage adults to explore the variety of learning options available to them.

All kinds of organisations have become involved, some for the first time and others who have been part of this initiative from the start. Providers of adult education, museums, galleries, libraries, community groups, specialist groups, in fact anywhere that adult learning takes place will offer the opportunity for all adults to participate in a variety of events. There is something for everybody from perfecting digital camera skills at your local community centre, getting on terms with Skype and other communication tools, e-publishing, seed sowing, green topics, learning for job success, drumming and meditation workshops to name a few.

The mission of AONTAS is that all Irish adults should have access to learning opportunities as adult learning has an important role to play in the social and economic future of Ireland. The Adult Learners’ Festival is a national celebration of adult learning, which gives an opportunity for wide scale promotion with a demonstration of its value.

 Festival Objectives:

  • Celebrate adult learning and learner achievements.
  • Show case for adult education providers.
  • Promote work of the adult education sector and AONTAS.
  • Place adult education firmly on the political agenda.

This year each day of the festival has a relevant theme and organisers and participants are encouraged to get involved in one, some or all of them.

Festival Theme Days

• Monday 25th February 2013 – Celebrate Learning

• Tuesday 26th February 2013 – Green Learning

• Wednesday 27th February 2013 – Learning Communities

• Thursday, 28th February 2013 – Learning for Work

• Friday, 1st March 2013 – Lobby for Learning Day

• Saturday, 2nd March 2013 – Family & Intergenerational Learning Day

AONTAS welcomes all groups and individuals and encourages them to become involved in the 2013 Adult Learners’ Festival. It makes no difference whether participants are part of big national organisations, large or small business, or local community group. The diversity of participation is a bonus for making the Festival a success. All ideas for events are welcome and AONTAS would love to have a discussion with all participants, so they can help publicise events on their website and in their press releases and other media communications. Posters and publicity material are available to event organisers, groups and individuals interested in taking part in the Festival.

Star Awards Celebrate Learning

The Monday of the Festival sees the announcement of the 2013 Star Awards chosen from nominated projects and judged by an experienced panel. In total, 36 projects made the shortlist and these will be reviewed in the preceding weeks before the awards ceremony takes place at the Burlington Hotel.

Past winners include Age Action for their “Getting Started” project where volunteers teach older people internet and computer skills and the Knockmay Women’s Voice Quilting Project where local women living in social exclusion and poverty are empowered to express their dreams along with their experiences of poverty and social exclusion

Green Learning

Tuesday’s Green Learning theme will include events where learning about sustainable living, gardening, organic food, environmental issues, and other green topics is available at many locations around the country.

Community Learning

The Wednesday theme is for events that encourage learning at local level in the community. An array of learning experiences in community centres, libraries, museums, and heritage centres bring education to everyone’s doorstep as part of a wider process.

Learning for Work

Learning for Work on Thursday is an opportunity for adult learners to learn how to up skill, take up training and learn about preparation for returning to the work force after being at home, unemployed or redundant. There are also events for those adults in the workforce to demonstrate adult education comes in all shapes and forms and is available to learners whatever the circumstances.

Learning Day Lobbying

On Friday, it is all hands on deck to raise the profile of adult learning and to make its value visible in the political and social arenas.

Family Learning

Saturday sees events for the whole family across the generations. These events show how learning can take place within families and what can be learned from others within that group.

Adult learning is not just about night classes, masters degrees or a return to classroom based learning. The Festival will show that adult learning is important, and can encompass serious subjects with a qualification at the end of the tuition as well as learning for fun from cake decorating to local history.

For more information view the Adult Learners Festival website at

Denise Colebrooke

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Further Education Key to Recovery

computer-trainingThe recent recession has caused major upheaval in many people’s lives and as the reality of lack of jobs hits home, thoughts often turn to re-training in a different area, enhancing existing skills and adding value to life experience in order to meet the new demands of employment. As the austerity years progress, new opportunities for growth will be largely driven by government policy, foreign investment and emerging sectors.

In order to tap into these areas, it is important to understand the necessary skill sets needed and look at gaining the appropriate training and qualifications. One group ideally positioned to take advantage of these new opportunities and gaps in industry sectors are mature students. The new year is the ideal time to research and contemplate how a return to education can complement existing skills and add relevant knowledge to the jobseekers portfolio.

Mature Students

Students of this type are becoming major consumers of training courses. They  may be long term unemployed, recently graduated, redundant, semi-retired or a former business owner. Age is irrelevant to education and in these times, it is important particularly for those who have sustained a career to date, to evaluate their existing skills and identify any areas where up skilling and re-training will enhance their prospects when job hunting.

Returning to education can be daunting for some older students and going to college again is something that many already qualified people find hard to adapt to, but the benefits and the experience of study far outweigh any doubts and worries.

The broad range of training courses available, means that subjects of value exist to enhance every student’s CV and experience portfolio. Whether a Fetac award module or an under graduate degree program, the very act of study and sense of purpose has been found to enhance essential soft skills needed in the market place and boost self-confidence of students giving additional benefits.

Mature students as a group are core members of any further education college or university. Usually they have a clear knowledge of what they wish to gain from their study and this drives them to achieve better results on completion of training courses.

Entry Requirements and Finance

Many people looking for a course are under the impression that a leaving certificate (or similar) is essential to attend college of any kind but this is not the case for mature students. Depending on the course, some colleges may require that some leaving certificate subjects were studied in the past. Each course and college will have a set of criteria for entry and individual cases can be discussed with the college.

Becoming a mature student is life changing and juggling family life with study can be a struggle as well as a financial burden for some. Having support from friends and family is important. Financing college may be challenging but there are many finance streams and supports to help depending on eligibility. There are back to education allowances, maintenance grants, FAS funding, springboard and student funds at some universities.

Colleges are experienced with the needs of mature students and may offer advice and support personally and academically. Those mature students applying for particular courses in universities may need to sit a Mature Student Admissions Pathway test.

Prospects for Mature Students

Over the last five years due to the economic climate, the coupling of skills with jobs has become more difficult but mature students have an advantage as previous experience and knowledge make them good, committed students who will take full advantage of the training they receive. Ireland is continuing to invest in education and training, and there is commitment to supporting the creation of highly skilled jobs in some of the identified growth sectors such as technology, the green economy, healthcare, communications and information technology and healthcare. These growth sectors not only offer opportunity for work within Ireland but across all EU member states.

There is no better time for people to invest in them selves to prepare for the inevitable opportunities that will arise in the future as emerging technologies grow and international confidence is restored in Ireland.

New skills and the changes they bring not only revitalise individuals but also in time will help to revitalise the economy. This is why further education colleges are a vital part of Ireland’s future. The diversity of subjects, quality of teaching and skills of graduates are the key to Ireland’s growth and recovery.

Denise Colebrooke

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Emerging Green Sector Promises Opportunities

green-economyOne of the emerging areas of innovation that will help Ireland to recover from the recent global recession is the Green Economy. The Irish economy was one of the hardest hit by the recession. With unemployment figures reaching 15% in 2012 and the austerity cuts, there are still serious doubts that the presently recumbent Celtic Tiger will be able to bite back in the next ten years or so.

Despite the undoubted challenges, an attempt to meet the need for growth head on is being taken seriously by the Irish government, looking to innovation as the main driver in developing the economy again. Key strategies are being developed to focus on the economy in areas the government see as critical in transforming the business sector over the next years of recovery.

The Green Economy

The Green Economy encompasses activities across many sectors that have a common objective of providing services and goods sustainably, which in turn reduces impact on the environment. These sectors include energy efficient products, renewable energy, efficient production methods, recovery, recycling, and re-use of waste, low carbon vehicles and water management. The Green Economy estimated to be worth around €5 trillion is expected to employ 36 million people worldwide by 2015. It makes perfect sense then that Ireland is focusing on this growth area.

How will Ireland Capture some of the Green Sector?

There are clues to be found in the recent policy statement by the Government “Delivering Our Green Potential” the subject that is employment and growth in the Green Economy.  The document lays out how Ireland is best positioned to capture a small but nevertheless significant slice of this growing and important sector.

The document defines Ireland as having significant advantages and strengths to be used to exploit Green Economy business opportunities. Ireland has plenty of renewable energy resources opening up the prospect of Ireland exporting clean energy resources to the UK. There is also a strong base of research, which is highly relevant to be tapped for new opportunities in the sector.

The natural resources that Ireland has are excellent. Clean water, land, and air support sustainable economic development within a natural environment second to none. This rich bio-diversity will help to develop green tourism and related activities. There are already a number of organisations and companies that have international credibility and proven record of accomplishment in the Green Economy.

Key Issues

Government Commitment

The Government’s commitment to real action means green policies will be pushed forward. The Government already has an established renewable energy policy to develop further ocean, wind, and transport energy, research and development, bio energy and energy infrastructure. The objective is to reduce public sector energy usage by 33% by 2020.

Green Economy Financial Services

The fact that the green economy can be applied across all sectors means the Government has engaged in growing a green financial services industry that supports the financing, development, and promotion of a low-carbon economy as a key niche.

The global investment in this sector alone is estimated to have fourfold growth to over €700bn by 2020. The aim is for Ireland to develop reputation as a global green financial management hub. Green assets in Ireland have tripled in the past four years.

Green Innovation

Commitment to supporting green innovation through facilitating and encouraging collaboration between the business sector and university sector by prioritising research in areas such as smart grids and smart cities, sustainable food production, marine renewable energy and smart cities and smart grids.

For example, the Irish Maritime and Energy Resource Cluster (IMERC), is collaboration between government departments, state agencies, government departments, industry partners and higher education institutions led by University College Cork. IMERC aims to use the experience of teachers, researchers, and naval personnel in the development of an ‘ecosystem of innovation’ in the maritime sector underpinning Ireland’s leading position in the ocean energy sector.

Demand for Skills

Demand for skills is increasing and within the sector, there are jobs with specialist skill sets but also for support staff in more general areas. Expertise is required in mathematics, engineering, science, and technology. As a result of this policy, there is opportunity for jobs growth and further education colleges and universities are being encouraged to align courses and teaching with the requirements of companies in the green sector.

This policy statement should give plenty of encouragement to those seeking work and those looking for a long-term career in a growth industry. There are many ways to achieve this objective. Foundation courses at a further education level could be the platform from which to step onto a ‘green career’.

While Ireland has a long way to go to become the Celtic Tiger again, at least there is a strategy to grow the economy in a globally important sector over the coming years.

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Adult Learning – A Second Chance

adult learningShort courses at night schools, vocational courses designed to give people a trade or enhance existing skills and attending university courses on a full or part time basis are all forms of adult learning.

Adult learning courses usually last between eight weeks and nine months, depending on the nature of the course and the content. For example, a skills course to enhance administration skills will probably last longer than one covering cake decoration. Adult learning courses usually require an individual to attend two to three times a week for one or two hour classes.

The classes can be scheduled at any time of day but are most commonly run as evening courses to help people to arrange them around their working patterns or their other commitments, such as caring for children. There may also be two versions of the same course running simultaneously, one in the day and one in the evening, to give more flexibility & cater for a those with differing schedules.

Adult Learning, further education

In terms of the course content to be found on adult learning schemes, it varies in relation to the course itself, but the majority of the work and assessment is classroom based with a practical exam or regular exam at the end of the course. However, the typical course content for adult learning varies depending on area of study.

In terms of career progression, adult learning courses can considerably enhance your career prospects. A good number of the courses are designed to introduce you to new skills related to your existing career or enhance those that you already have. The ones that can supplement your existing knowledge can enhance your employability for future jobs elsewhere or indeed enhance your position within the company, thus making your promotion prospects more real.

If you are looking for further information on adult learning then there is a wealth of information out there at your fingertips that you can tap into. Why not view more infomation on adult learning resources on our Part Time Learning Feature.

Adult Learning Resources

1. National University of Ireland in Galway is committed to promoting lifelong learning, from interest courses through to the Masters programs that they offer.

2. Dublin Adult learning Centre offers a wide range of programs to help individuals advance their career, and also offers a creche so that parents wanting to learn do not have to miss out. Their primary course offerings concern general education for individuals that previously missed out.

3. PCI College; PCI College, one of Ireland’s leading providers of training and education in the field of counselling and psychotherapy

4. University College Dublin offers over 200 adult learning courses, from access courses to credit courses to interest courses, meaning that there is something for everyone!

5. The Waterford Institute of Technology offers professional development for adults looking to get ahead in their careers. Their comprehensive programs caters for those in the industries of engineering, health, business, education, humanities and the sciences.

See also evening and part time courses on at

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EU Presidency Promises Focus on Higher Education

eu-europeEducation is highlighted in Ireland’s priorities in its term of the EU Presidency. The Presidency will carry the theme of ensuring sustainable growth and jobs. Education and training is a pivotal element in this aspiration. Ruairí Quinn T.D The Minister for Education and Skills laid out Ireland’s priorities for education during the EU Presidential term at the start of this New Year.

The Presidency of the Council of the EU, will be held by Ireland until June 30th 2013 and Minister Quinn described the Presidential theme as one of assurance to sustain jobs and growth using education and training as key elements to tackle Ireland’s unemployment crisis.

The improvement of skills, access to the right education and training particularly for young people will play a major role in encouraging investment into the EU. This opportunity with Ireland at the helm of the EU will clearly help avoid the long-term negative effects of a lost generation with the social and personal consequences across Europe.

Various legislative priorities for education have been identified for attention during the course of the Presidency. These priorities are:

Regulation to establish “Erasmus for All”

Erasmus for All will replace seven existing programmes with one. To increase efficiency, all of the current EU and international schemes for sport, youth, training and education will be brought together to improve efficiency by making it easier to apply for grants, streamlining the process to avoid duplication and fragmented administration. The scheme is due to start in 2014.

The issue of a new Directive to modify Directive 2005/36 on recognising professional qualifications

The Directive defines the procedures and related matters be adhered to by regulatory bodies and other competent authorities when recognising qualifications of professionals who have migrated from other EU Member States. The proposal’s objective is to make is a more simple process for skilled and qualified professionals to work in other EU Member States. Better provision of information and simplification of procedures will reinforce protection for consumers. This will be particularly relevant to patients in respect of the language skills of health service professionals.

European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) and European Social Fund (ESF) Regulation

Ireland is funded by €375m for the period 2007-2013. These funds, invested in projects and programmes activate the unemployed, and address social inclusion and equality matters. Youth is particularly emphasised. The European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (the EGF) was set up in December 2006 for the purpose of supporting workers who are made redundant resulting from changes global trade patterns. The fund is used to support and assist redundant workers back to employment. The next round of funding and operating negotiations is anticipated to fall within Ireland’s EU Presidency.

Decision on Strategic Innovation Agenda of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) & Regulation amending 2008 Regulation, which established the EIT

The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) was established to tackle Europe’s innovation gap and is the flagship education institute of the EU. Its purpose is to assist research, innovation, and growth in the EU. The legislative proposals for the EIT (2014 – 2020) were published in November 2011. The task of final negotiations on these two legislative proposals will fall to the Irish EU Presidency.

The Irish Presidency will address further priorities in training and education areas:

Teachers and Schools

A linked Presidency conference on the teacher/educator role will be held. The focus will be on improvements in policy support for the teacher/educator profession.

A further Presidency conference will be held themed on better evaluation and assessment for better school and learning systems.

Higher Education:

The Irish system will be addressed to fall into line with EU2020 agenda, which sets out steps to modernise higher education and achieve a target that 40% of 30-34 year olds should have tertiary or equivalent education completed by 2020. Focus will be on the social, there will be a focus on the social element of higher education. Non-traditional and students from disadvantaged backgrounds and non-traditional students will have improved access to higher education using new effective strategies. These strategies will form a key role in Member States striving to achieve the 2020 target

National Qualification Frameworks (NQF) and European Qualifications Framework (EQF):

The theme of quality assurance in qualification frameworks will be the subject of a Presidency conference. Focus will be concentrated on how the employment sector is engaged in quality outcomes for learning and quality assurance relative to labour market needs.

With previous Presidencies, Ireland has worked to drive the legislative process of the EU further and this will continue during the tenure ensuring Ireland’s continuation as a fair and impartial holder of the office of EU President.

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News and Events EU Presidency EU Presidency Promises Focus on Higher EducationEducation is highlighted in Ireland’s priorities in its term of the EU Presidency. The Presidency will carry the theme of ensuring sustainable growth and jobs. Education and training is a pivotal element in this aspiration. Ruairí Quinn T.D The Minister for Education and Skills laid out Ireland’s priorities for education during the EU Presidential term at the start of this New Year….More Details >>
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Hi-Tech, Hands-On Open Evening

electronics and alarm installation coursesHi-Tech Training are hosting a “Hands-On” Open Evening and are inviting participation in Live Technical Exercises in Dublin on Weds 23rd Jan (6-9 pm)

The Open Evening Experience is being hosted in  4 North Great Georges Street, Dublin 1.

The evening will give you the opportunity to: –

Preview Intruder Alarms & Access Control, Alternative Energy, IT and Electronics Courses.

Participate in “Hands-On” technical exercises to get a real insight into what the courses are all about.

See and experience equipment involved.

Chat with Instructors and ask questions.

Get €30 voucher on any course booked at Open Evening Event.

Refreshments will be served.

6.00 pm Meeting and welcome

6.30 pm CCTV
– CCTV introduction and uses in homes and businesses
– Developments in testing and remote access
– Question and Answer Session

7.00 pm IT and Electronics
– Careers in Electronics and IT
– Diploma in IT Systems Support
– City and Guilds worldwide recognition
– Question and Answer Session

7.30 pm Alternative Energy
– Solar PV, Solar Water & Wind
– Return on your investment
– Question and Answer Session

8.00 pm Access Control
– Uses and applications
– Integrating Access Control with renewable energy
– Question and Answer Session

8.30 pm Intruder Alarms
– Overview of an installation
– Wireless v’s Standard wired systems
– Question and Answer Session

For more information on courses run by Hi-Tech Training view the Hi-Tech Training Page

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Limerick High-Tech Firm Launches Scholarship Programme

scholarshipA Limerick hi-tech engineering company has developed a novel way of encouraging young people to consider Engineering and Science careers by offering a scholarship and internship to third level undergraduate students.

Emutex Ltd., an embedded software solutions firm based in Raheen, says the aim of its ‘Software Innovator of the Year Scholarship’ is to encourage young people to consider a career in computing in light of the significant shortfall in Engineering and Science graduates in Ireland.

Under the programme, students are being invited to apply their expertise in software and innovation to create an application using the popular Raspberry Pi embedded device. The winning idea will be selected from a shortlist of 10 entries, which will be showcased on

“During the past year, we have had to look overseas to fill 7 out of 10 job vacancies due to a shortage of suitably qualified professionals in Ireland. The skill level required is just not available here at present,” explained Mr. John Twomey, managing director, Emutex.

He added: “There is a clear need in this country to encourage young people to pursue Engineering and Science in secondary and third level education to enable them for successful careers in electronic and computer software engineering. For this reason, we have launched the first annual Scholarship programme aimed at Third Level undergraduate students in software/computing disciplines. We will cover the winning undergraduate studentís Third Level fees for one year, as well as offer them an internship within the company.”

Founded in 2007, Emutex is a software engineering company that specialises in the design and development of complex embedded comms software solutions. The companyís software can be found in many types of devices including phone systems, advanced network routers, security firewalls, thin-client displays, alarm systems and metering devices.

Mr. Twomey said he hopes the launch of the Scholarship programme will encourage other companies to offer similar programs.

“At a time of high unemployment in Ireland, it comes as a surprise to many that software companies throughout the country are forced to look abroad for people to fill job vacancies. This is simply a result of the low numbers of Secondary School students applying for college places in computing disciplines. There seems to be a genuine disinterest among young people to pursue a career in computing. Technology is everywhere in todays world but learning about how these technologies work in a hands-on way is what will get young people excited about computing.”

The Emutex Software Innovator of the Year Scholarship scheme invites students to apply their expertise in software and innovation to create an application using the popular Raspberry Pi embedded device. This miniature computer used by hobbyists around the world is ideal for educational purposes and can be used to create anything from a robot to a home automation system (remote central heating and lighting).

All applicants will first submit their ideas on the Emutex website at From this, 10 finalists will be chosen. They will be given the device and any equipment they require to build a working prototype of their idea. All of these ideas will be showcased on the Emutex website and explained in simple terms so that they can be easily understood by all ages. Finally, the student with the best project will win the Emutex Software Innovator Of The Year Scholarship for 2013.

Visit for further information.

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Become a fitness instructor in 4 months

motions-fitnessIf you would like to gain a university accredited, professional qualification as a fitness instructor/trainer then get along to the open meeting in the Red Cow Hotel on Tuesday 15 January at 7.30pm.

The meeting is being held by Motions Health & Fitness Training who run the Certificate in Exercise & Health Fitness course in Dublin. The next course is starting in UCD on 4 February and this meeting will give information about the qualification, the course, further education and job prospects.

View Motions Fitness courses and information on


To find out more information go to or email if you wish to attend the meeting.

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Momentum Programme

momentum-programmeAn announcement that 6500 education and training places are being funded for people who are long term unemployed and young adults under 25 years is welcome news. A government initiative, the Momentum Programme is hoping to prevent a “lost generation” of young people who have never worked and provide essential skills for people who are long term unemployed. The courses will be provided by a mix of public and private institutions and colleges with an emphasis on skills that are deemed to be needed in the world of work.

Quite clearly, creating opportunity that leads to work especially for the long term unemployed is imperative for the government who are in the middle of re-building a very broken economy. As part of getting the country back on its feet again, it is crucial that gaps are filled and a skilled workforce is available to meet challenges in the future. Opportunities in various sectors have been identified and the right training and skills will give potential employees access to these sectors with a view to establishing a career.

This initiative will utilise 36 training and education providers in the public and private domain. A huge range of programmes will be on offer spread across Ireland. The training courses will focus on expanding employment areas of healthcare, green economy, sales and marketing, food processing, ICT and digital media. Different counties will offer different choices when it comes to the training on offer. This may prove restrictive for under 25s and long term unemployed people if they are not able to travel far from their present location. For instance, the only training option available to the long-term unemployed in some counties is healthcare.

The under 25s however have a smorgasbord of options across all sectors. All courses will be tailored to the specific requirements of the unemployed with an emphasis on pathways back to work that enhance necessary soft skills such as communication. Attention will be given to marketing the jobseeker in today’s market place and meaningful work placements should assist with building confidence, which is often lacking in long term unemployed people.

The training provides what has been described as “significant work placement” as part of the course which will be helpful to young people who have not worked before. Momentum will only provide training in sectors where a need for skilled people has been identified. Funding for any other type of course will not be offered by this particular scheme.


Funding of €20 million has been made available from the Department of Education and Skill, and FAS will administer the programme. For the unemployed person who is signing on to the live register courses are free and operate on a full time and part time basis. The courses are aligned with the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) levels 3 to 6 or to an industry-recognised certification. The courses will run from 11 to 45 weeks duration.

Momentum Scheme Details

The scheme was officially launched on 18th December and the announcement comes not long after Budget 2013 announcements that staff cuts would be necessary across the further education sector. Momentum has a structure of themes within which projects offer the training required by the clusters of occupations the theme covers. There are four themes within the scheme. The themes have been chosen as evidence shows that skills these themes are associated with have relatively good outcomes when it comes to employment.

The first three themes aim to provide certification within levels 5 to 6 on NFQ. The fourth theme is exclusively for unemployed young people under the age of 25 years with the aim of moving this type of candidate into the employment market while furnishing them with foundation skills from where they can progress. Level 3 to 6 alignment or on NFQ are available in this theme. Certification in the fourth theme will encompass levels 3 to 6 or equivalent alignment to the NFQ.

Theme 1 Occupations

  • Information Communications Technology
  • Digital Media
  • Gaming
  • Telecommunications.
  • Theme 2 Occupations

  • Transportation
  • Distribution and Logistics
  • Sales and Marketing.
  • Theme 3 Occupations

  • Health Care and Social Services
  • Manufacturing Process Technicians
  • Natural Resources Energy Conservation
  • Food and Beverage Services and Food Processing.

Courses will commence in January and February 2013 across the country and it will be interesting to see if the project delivers the significant opportunities being touted by the government. Unemployment is 14.8% and 429,567 people are signing on to the live register, so the landscape remains challenging despite all of the training initiatives on offer.

Author: Denise Colebrooke

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PLC Sector Hit Hard by Budget 2013

plc-education-cutsPost Leaving Certificate courses are increasingly important for obtaining employment in these uncertain times. They are vital for school leavers and adult learners who need to up skill or add value to their existing portfolio of skills that may allow them to enter the workforce. Given this need, Budget 2013 has unfortunately delivered a body blow to learners and colleges alike by changing the current teacher pupil ratio from 17:1 to 19:1.

Cuts across the Sector

Despite a succession of education ministers talking about the need to be rid of inequality in education, Budget 2013 was a bad news day for anyone in the further education sector. The change in pupil teacher ratio will mean the loss of up to 200 full time jobs and 500 non-permanent posts being cut or reduced in hours.

A host of dedicated establishments including colleges, post primary schools and other education centres provide post Leaving Certificate courses and further education. For recovery of the economy, a well-educated workforce with in-demand skills is a key component and it seems counter productive to apply these cuts at a time when the sector is needed most.

Value of PLCs and Further Education

The further education sector offers many alternatives to those who are disadvantaged and unemployed or who need a second opportunity to become qualified. Already stretched to the limits, many colleges take on students without funding, so these budget cuts will strain an already over-stressed system

It is nonsensical for qualified teachers to be consigned to the dole queue when they are playing an important role in economic recovery by educating the current and future work force of Ireland. Not only will social welfare costs be applicable to the newly unemployed teachers, but also to the pupils who will find the doors closed when they are denied a place on a course due to lack of teaching resources.

Some required skills for today’s marketplace are specialised and without any resources to pass on this knowledge business critical skills cannot be delivered to the potential work force. A nation with an unemployment rate of some 15% and a youth unemployment rate of 25% (under 25 years) needs innovative educators to retrain and educate this untapped source of economic recovery.

Future Workforce in Jeopardy

Some of the people who will suffer from the budget cuts might be future entrepreneurs, engineers, IT people, or marketers, who may never realise their potential or have to wait on the dole queue for a chance at retraining. These people may be without prior qualifications and formal skills and many may have left formal education for the lure of the Celtic Tiger. They are now back from the easy money years realising they need to obtain relevant qualifications to ring fence their future financial security and marketability. There are also those whose employment sector has collapsed and there are no opportunities available to them, and parents who stayed home to raise children all of who want to train or up skill

The increase in the pupil-teacher ratio means that many new courses that have context within our EU membership such as green energy will take the hit while cutting edge technology courses for instance, cloud computing will also suffer.

Training Allowances Reduced

The impact of the change to pupil teacher ratio is only one edge of the sword; budgetary cuts also hit the training allowances, which have been reduced. Participants in different schemes via Fás, VTOS, and Youthreach, who move from jobseekers’ payments, will not be eligible for an increase to the maximum €188 each week but will be capped at €160 per week for under 25’s. Capitation rates in colleges providing PLCs and further education is also reduced by 2%.

Effective from January 2013, the back to education allowance of €300 is discontinued for all participants new and existing. Back to education allowance will be discontinued for new and existing participants. These cuts may be enough to put the chance of education out of the reach of keen students who will not be able to bear the costs, given the increase in fuel costs and commuting.

Budget 2013 has set back the education sector just as more than at any other time it needs to deliver an educated workforce. For those who are unemployed, frustrated and striving to make change in their lives, these cuts have slashed the odds on available courses, and affordability of attending college.

Continuing to squeeze essential services for every last cent leaves not only education but also the government in disarray. With emigration on an unprecedented scale particularly at graduate level, a throughput of newly skilled people is needed across all sectors as economic growth is achieved. Without this, there is likely to be a skills gap in the future, and people are denied the chance to make a valid contribution to the country. The government need to think strategically instead of implementing knee jerk solutions.

Denise Colebrooke

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Farm Education

farmer educationHistorically, becoming a farmer was simple. As soon as a child born on a farm began to walk, they would follow their parents around the farm and learn in a purely practical and hands on way as they grew up. These days however, post secondary education is becoming ever more important for farmers wishing to run their farms at a profit and sustain the business into the future.

Technology and the reality of competitive economies challenge people who run farms in a new way. Agriculture has become more knowledge intensive with rapid changes, new legislation, and EU directives making the management of a farm complex. As a result, different types of knowledge and skills are becoming essential for farming success.

Traditional Ways Outdated

A typical day for a farmer calls on many inherent and taught skills. They need to recognise when stock is sick, check prices, fix broken machinery, feed, plough, manage land, and do all of the paperwork while keeping an eye on their market place. As a general worldwide trend, farm work is expected to decline as more efficient farming practices mean more products can be produced from fewer farms. In Ireland, small family farms make up the majority of all farmland and there is danger that more of these farms will fail to thrive unless attention is paid to getting the most from the land and stock efficiently.

Farmers have an inborn understanding of the work that they perform in an environment that calls for a complexity of skills. However, farms are businesses and without the education to run a farm as a business entity, many farmers are struggling to exist. The modern farmer needs to keep detailed records on the health of their stock, crop rotation, land management, due income and outbound purchasing. A general understanding of electricity, mechanics, carpentry, engineering and natural ingenuity are essential for any farmer.

The Farm As a Business

Business management is an area where farmers need to have knowledge. Computer literacy is an essential skill required of farmers these days and they need to know how to apply technology, have awareness of environmental stewardship, understand global marketing, be able to develop a business plan, control finances, prepare budgets and maintain the every day running of the farm.

Farmer’s decisions are always challenging. Deciding on what crop to grow or what stock to invest in is a gamble. A mistake can mean a disaster a year down the line. It is becoming more difficult for farmers who have not gone beyond basic education to meet the challenges of modern farming.

Teagasc plays a role providing on-farm education supporting the agri-industry and sustaining rural life in Ireland. The importance of education off the farm is to be taken seriously in a dynamic food and agriculture sector. Farmers today should have education equivalent to other professional occupations.

It is considered that food and farming are pivotal to the Irish economy recovery leading to growth in the sector. Diversification is encouraged and many farms have changed to become producers of artisan cheeses and food products. Others have looked at their natural resources and started to offer farm holidays, equestrian activities, and farm restaurants.


Most farmers starting a farm business or already running one know it is not possible to ignore education. To keep their operations in business now requires some kind of formal training. For farmer’s children intending to return to the farm there are plenty of valuable third level degrees that will support their hands on training. For existing farmers there is plenty of support and funding available to take practical, useful courses to improve their prospects.

Farmers are one group of people where the working day can be 24 hours during busy times like lambing and hay making so it is essential that educational courses fit around the lifestyle. Fortunately, with an internet connection, farmers can take advantage of the many relevant distance-learning courses supplied by further education colleges throughout the country. This means they can study from home at a time that suits them and without leaving the farm.

Business, Food Science, Horticulture, Marketing, Environmental Studies, Basic Accounting, and Agricultural Science are just some of the many subjects for farmers to study to enhance their own skills and improve their bottom line. Combined with the excellent on-farm education Teagasc provides, there is every hope that the agriculture sector in Ireland will grow and prosper in the years ahead. Like all professions, experience gained through the years is critical, but the essential tools of the trade such as simple business management knowledge and computer skills as a minimum are vital to the future of the agricultural sector.

Denise Colebrooke

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Confucius Says Learn Chinese Languages to get the Edge

chinese coursesThe extraordinary rise of China as a world player is a twenty-first century drama of magnitude. The economic growth of China and its active part on the world stage is transforming Asia and re-aligning business development towards the East. While this may lead to fears over the security of the West, it seems there is no stopping this economic juggernaut.

What does this have to do with education? China’s extraordinary growth means that more western organisations are transferring manufacturing to China as labour costs are cheap and the burgeoning industrial cities offer top quality cheap office space, state of the art communications, internet access and a workforce that is reliable and disciplined. This eclectic mix of traditional culture, totalitarianism, and western style consumerism makes China a fascinating place to do business. The Chinese are also setting up trade missions and permanent showcases in Europe so that investors, buyers, and businesspeople can see what China has to offer without the long haul air travel.

The €175m first phase of what has been nicknamed “Athlone Chinatown” in Westmeath will house the International Trade and Commerce Centre, a European hub for Chinese traders and manufacturers to display their products to international buyers. Some 1500 jobs will be created by the first phase with at least two thirds of the jobs going to Irish and EU citizens with the remainder taken by Chinese specialists and management teams.

Clearly, Ireland’s ties with China will be strengthened by this investment and opportunities for work both in Ireland and in China will be on offer. For the entrepreneur or businessperson, learning a Chinese language and learning about the culture and etiquette will give them a competitive advantage.

Already Ireland is home to three Confucius Institutes whose goal is global teaching about China. A further purpose built institute is underway at UCD. The Belfield campus will be home to an architect designed four storey pagoda style building set in a Chinese garden with a giant statue of Confucius in bronze keeping a watchful eye.

While it is not unusual for countries to promote their culture and language (take the Alliance Francais and British Council for example), what is unusual is China’s insistence that the Chinese version is situated on university campuses. This condition has led to some dissension amongst universities worldwide with some US universities declining the offer of a Confucius Institute and some academics at UCD questioning the existence of a totalitarian government funded entity in the long term. Like many third level institutes, funding is short so the offer of a 5 million euro Chinese investment combined with a 2.5 million euro Irish government contribution is not easily refused.

Confucius – Philosophy, Teaching, and Principles

From 551 to 479 BC the statesman, philosopher, teacher, and great thinker Confucius lived. Dominating Chinese culture for centuries, his philosophies are a doctrine for Chinese life. In the late sixteenth century, his philosophy spread to Europe through various missionaries one of whom gave him the name Confucius. To the Chinese he is “Kong Zi” or “The Master”. Some essential parts of his teachings are:

  • Harmony, and respect for elders and worship of parents is essential.
  • Chinese children are legally bound to support their parents.
  • Parents pray, light candles and incense and leave notes at Confucius temples to help children pass exams. This wisdom is not uncommon with Irish parents either at exam times!

There are further Confucius Institutes at UCC Cork and the University of Ulster, neither of which have purpose built premises. Promotion of Chinese studies is important given China’s position in the world economy but there is nevertheless political sensitivity when it comes to China’s record on human rights and Tibet. Is there real academic freedom if as has been reported Chinese teachers are groomed to toe the party line?

Whether or not the Confucius Institute is agreeable to everyone, it is very clear that engagement with China is necessary in international business today. Consequently, anyone who wants to gain an advantage on a business, cultural or social level might try learning one of China’s languages. On a basic level, it displays an interest in the country and good manners, at a higher level; it is beneficial in conducting business transactions and being aware of business conversations without the use of an interpreter.

Many esteemed further education colleges offer the opportunity to learn what is rapidly becoming an essential business language. Mandarin and Cantonese are now on the curriculum of many northern European schools and at higher level, but Ireland has been slow to follow although it has been announced that Mandarin will be available at some stage in the Leaving certificate and Chinese studies will be available for Junior certificate from 2014. This year over 3,200 British students sat Chinese A levels and many other countries are replacing Spanish and French with Chinese languages, so Ireland needs to catch up.

Further education colleges offer classroom and distance learning courses in this essential language so for anyone wanting to have an edge in business in the twenty first century, consider enrolling on one of the many top class courses available.

Click here to find language courses on

Denise Colebrooke

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