15 July 2021
By Roger Jones
Further and higher education, along with research and innovation will be key to our country’s recovery from COVID-19 according to Niall Collins, Minister of State with responsibility for Skills and Further Education. Launching, by video, the official publication of the ‘Vision for Tertiary Education’ and ‘FET College of the Future’ papers developed by Education & Training Boards Ireland’s Directors of Further Education and Training Forum, Minister Collins said: “We know that the pandemic has affected some jobs and some sectors more than others. The world of work has changed dramatically, the pace of digitalisation has increased hugely and it’s not going to stop. This means that we need to maintain a real focus on helping people learn new skills and move into new areas of employment. I’m very glad to say that our further and higher education sectors are not only willing but absolutely determined to provide the inclusive and accessible education and training that will do just that”.
Speaking at the launch, ETBI Director of Further Education and Training Support Services Fiona Maloney stated: “Education & Training Boards are ready, willing, and agile in taking on the challenge of supporting Ireland’s economic recovery from the pandemic. The linkages between Education & Training Boards and Higher Education have never been stronger, transition pathways never easier to access and this collaboration will continue to be critical to our collective success”. She continued: “Both papers build on the continuing transformation of the sector and outline our vision for evolving Irish Tertiary education system and the role of the FET provision. ETBs are instrumental in supporting country’s recovery, not only leading the skills training provision but also supporting the most vulnerable learners in our society. The new integrated FET College of the Future will deliver FET provision through an integrated network of Campuses, Centres and Hubs with a centralised network of support services underpinning the provision”.
Speaking at the launch, Andrew Brownlee, CEO of SOLAS, emphasised: “The Further Education and Training Sector has made great strides in recent years particularly following the establishment of ETBs and SOLAS. As outlined in the recently published five-year strategy for the sector this transformation must continue, and FET has to continue to change. To meet the current and future needs of economy and society, it must simplify its structure and learning pathways, facilitate easier access, ensure a more consistent learner experience, and build a more powerful identity within communities and potential learners. We need to make sure that more and more people of all ages become aware of the opportunities to learn, develop and progress at local levels”.
Other speakers at the launch outlined the challenges and opportunities facing Further Education and Training sector as it continues to evolve since the establishment of ETBs in 2013. These include the implementation of the Future FET: Transforming Learning Strategy 2020-2024, an integrated FET College of the Future, discussions around a Tertiary Education system and a new funding model for the sector, a new Apprenticeship Action Plan 2021-2025 and an anticipated 10-year Literacy, Numeracy and Digital Literacy Strategy. These initiatives will be key to enabling the Further Education & Training Sector to deliver high-quality, sustainable services and experiences for its learners.
Speaking at the launch, Denis Leamy Chief Executive of Cork Education and Training Board said:
“The current time is an exciting one for Further Education. The creation of a dedicated Department and the Future FET Strategy reflects the Government’s commitment and belief in the Higher and Further Education elements of the tertiary education system. At regional level, through ETB’s, our ambition is to develop these links further over the coming months and years with seamless transitions for learners between Further and Higher Education, co-developed programmes and resources. As we gradually move out of the shadow of Covid-19, we are ready and prepared to meet the challenges of ensuring that there is an appropriate pathway for every learner.”