Lifelong digital learning now key to keeping up in evolving work environment

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The pandemic has changed how companies operate and people work. It has also changed how they acquire the skills and professional development they need to do their jobs and emphasised just how rapidly the world of work can change.

What seems clear from a piece of research produced here at the beginning of the month by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) is that Irish employees are cognisant of this volatility and recognise that upskilling is key to keeping up in a rapidly evolving working environment. The pandemic provided the impetus for over a third of those sampled to consider upskilling or reskilling, while 45 per cent said they would like the opportunity to retrain to work in a more progressive sector such as technology.

Cost, time and confidence were the main reasons preventing people from making a change and the HEA is trying to help by providing higher education places under the Springboard+ and Human Capital Initiative (HCI). The latter was introduced in 2019 to assist graduates to retrain to meet the priority needs of businesses in emerging technologies and in areas with skills shortages.

“We have tried to remove a lot of barriers for people who may feel daunted by a return to education,” says Vivienne Patterson, head of skills, engagement and statistics at the HEA. “All of the courses are free or subsidised and the majority of them offer blended learning options.”

Health innovation, logistics and online retail were three sectors that grew strongly during the pandemic and all are included in the Springboard+ and HCI initiatives.

In July, business education research consultancy Carrington Crisp published a report on the future of lifelong and executive learning in conjunction with LinkedIn. It sampled the views of more than 2,000 employees and 500 employers in 22 countries, and the message that came through loud and clear is that Covid has fundamentally changed the “how” of course delivery, with almost 80 per cent of employers now seeing online learning as their go-to method for employee development.


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