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Ministers Harris and Collins welcome study which reveals vast majority of people want to learn a new skill in near future

Ministers Harris and Collins welcome study which reveals vast majority of people want to learn a new skill in near future

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD and Minister of State for Skills and Further Education Niall Collins today welcomed new research which revealed nine out of ten people want to learn a new skill in the near future.

The EU Year of Skills was launched in Ireland by Ministers Harris and Collins in May with a call to action for everyone in the country to put skills at the centre for this year – and to take the opportunity to learn a new skill.

Speaking today, Minister Harris said: “We have an incredibly educated and highly skilled population in Ireland, but we can no longer treat knowledge as a fixed asset – nor can we assume that what we learned in three or four years of study is sufficient to last a lifetime.

“Today is about telling people of all ages and all backgrounds that there are countless opportunities available in this country to learn a new skill.

“The world is changing at a rapid pace and it means skills have a shorter shelf life than ever before. So yes, I’m determined to drive the skills agenda in order to help support the economy, and what the research carried out last week by Amárach also shows is that the benefits of lifelong learning go well beyond a monetary value.

“Learning a new skill, pursuing a passion, or taking on a course you always wanted to do improves for your self-confidence and mental well-being.

“So today I am again issuing a rallying call for us to this year collectively rise to the challenge of arming ourselves with new skills, for everyone to take advantage of all the opportunities available, and help drive both our economy and societal wellbeing.”

The launch of the EU Year of Skills in May coincided with the publication of the OECD Ireland Skills Strategy Report, which found participation in lifelong learning here, while above the EU average, falls far behind the top performers.

However, research carried out by Amárach in the past week, found that while almost half of people reported learning a new skill since the beginning of the year, almost 9 out of ten would like to learn one in the near future.

Some of the keys findings of the research included:

  • Of those who have recently learned a new skill, 90% said it improved their mental health and made them feel more confident, while 62% said they did it to develop themselves as a person.
  • Almost one in four people are only slightly confident they have the skills to advance in their current jobs, and only one in five are very confident they have the skills for the job they want in the next five years.
  • Self-development is the main motivation for learning a new skill (62%), followed by interest in the subject (45%), and to improve health and wellbeing (39%).
  • Just over half (55%) have made new friends on a course, and a similar number (51%) said it inspired their friends and family to learn new skills. For almost two-fifths (39%), leaning a new skill has enabled them to earn more money.

Minister Collins said: “Funding is available to support a wide range of upskilling and reskilling initiatives that meet the demands of a changing world, address skills shortages and contribute to the digital and green economy.

“We have also seen what learning a new skill can do for someone’s confidence and feeling of self-worth. So if it’s reskilling for a new career, upskilling for your current role, or simply pursuing a hobby that you were always passionate about, I would encourage everyone to take on a fresh challenge this year.”

Part and full time courses are available through ETBs across Ireland, while Skillnet Ireland programmes are developed by business, for business, with over 23,500 companies of all sizes benefitting from upskilling programmes each year.

Nessa White, Executive Director of Transformation at SOLAS, the Further Education & Training Authority, said: “Learning a new skill is easier than you think. The benefits of lifelong learning are endless, with the FET sector playing a crucial role in equipping learners with the skills to reach their full potential.

“There have never been more opportunities for upskilling and reskilling with smart, flexible Further Education and Training (FET) courses available in every county in Ireland, delivered by a network of 16 Education and Training Boards, and by eCollege, the national online learning service.

“FET is for everyone. It is available in every community in Ireland, and offers every individual, regardless of any previous level of education, a pathway to take them as far as they want to go. During European Year of Skills 2023, we encourage everyone to take a look at the opportunities to learn a new skill in their local community."

Skillnet Ireland Chief Executive Paul Healy said: “At Skillnet Ireland we are partnering with businesses to bring solutions to the skills gaps they experience, and in areas that are vital for every firm, such as innovation, digitalisation, and the green transition.    “This is driving business success but also allowing employers to cater for the individual needs of their people, giving them an opportunity to attain 21st century skills and to build career paths.”

For more information on courses and supports available, go to



Amárach Research

Amárach was commissioned by the Department to carry out a nationwide online survey of 1,100 adults over the age of 18 examining attitudes to upskilling, reskilling and learning new skills.

The survey was carried out over two days on September 4th and 5th and asked ten questions around the reasons people chose to learn a new, whether they were planning to learn a new skill, the motivation behind learning a new skill, and what the benefits of learning a new skill have been to them.

OECD Skills Strategy Project for Ireland

This project was led in Ireland by the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science in partnership with the OECD.

The project took the form of extensive policy analysis by the OECD and extensive stakeholder engagement on skills issues facing Ireland. There were four policy Priority Areas of the project:

  • securing balance in skills through a responsive and diversified supply of skills
  • fostering greater participation in lifelong learning in and outside of the workplace
  • strengthening the governance across a joined-up skills ecosystem
  • leveraging skills to drive innovation and strengthen the performance of firm

The project has been concluded with publication of the OECD report.

EU Year of Skills 2023

The European Year of Skills was announced by President von der Leyen in her State of the Union address in 2022, calling on Member States to take a renewed priority focus on upskilling, reskilling and continuous learning. The Year of Skills is a EU-wide initiative to ensure that people get the right skills for quality jobs and to help companies, in particular small and medium enterprises, address skills shortages.

The particular emphasis of the Year of Skills is on lifelong learning, by fostering easier recognition of qualifications across borders, by bringing organisations and people together to share their experiences and insights, and setting out how EU initiatives and funding possibilities can help. In Ireland, the broad work of the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science and partners will be recognised and encompassed in the Year of Skills, with a focus on raising awareness, engagement and uptake in continuous learning for all.

Lifelong learning

Lifelong learning is measured by the participation of the adult population (25-64 year-olds) engaging in education and training in the last four weeks. Eurostat measured this in Ireland as nearly 14% in 2021. Top EU performers, Sweden and Finland, had rates of nearly 35% and 31% respectively.

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