16 July, 2020 – Ministers Harris and Collins launch Further Education Strategy for next five years

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD and Minister of State for Further Education Niall Collins TD have today launched the National Further Education and Training Strategy.

The strategy sets out a five-year roadmap for the sector which is built around three key pillars of building skills, fostering inclusion and creating pathways and aims to address the economic and societal challenges faced over the coming years.

Speaking today, Minister Harris said: “Further education and training is for everyone. It provides an opportunity for everyone to engage in learning whilst delivering on the critical skills needs of the economy and the future world of work. It was a lifeline for many during the economic recession, and once again FET will be critical to our post-COVID recovery.”

“This strategy will aim to address some of the key challenges we face including the digital divide, female participation and the skills mismatch we are seeing.

“There is no shortage of ambition in this country. This strategy will offer better opportunities for people and will help the economy rebuild and recover from the social and economic shocks as a result of Covid-19.”

The strategy will end the confusing array of vocationally focused programmes and replace it with a new Level 5 and Level 6 proposition, and consolidate existing FET provision within a single integrated college structure.

Traditional areas of FET strength like healthcare, personal services and construction will be built upon but climate change and sustainable development will also be a critical focus for FET.

Mental health and wellbeing will be embedded within FET. Staff will have mental health learning embedded within their professional development and learners will have it embedded in the curriculum. 

The strategy offers a new range of apprenticeships with a strong focus on increasing the diversity, with particular goals around increasing female participation and providing access to people with disabilities.

Minister Harris added: “At the heart of this strategy is inclusion. There are many cohorts with diverse needs, such as people with disabilities, new migrants, Travellers, the long-term unemployed, ex-offenders.

“All these require focused types of support to address their particular circumstances and needs. This strategy requires a more targeted approach to addressing barriers around participation, completion and progression for marginalised and prioritised cohorts. We will reach out to particular groups and facilitate a pathway to re-engage with education through FET. Addressing the needs of people with disabilities will be a primary focus.”

Minister of State Collins added: “The future of FET is exciting. The future of FET is now. There is a place for everyone to join this journey in transforming learning. However FET needs to grow its profile across potential learners, communities, employers and Government to ensure that the sustainable value from FET and the ambitious vision and reform set out in this strategy is more widely acknowledged.”

Further information including a copy of the strategy can be found on the Solas website at https://www.solas.ie/