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Forecasting Skills Needs Critical for the Economy

Forecasting skills needs for the economy is a key part of how the State and the education system respondto the needs of business, according to John McGrath of the SOLAS Skills and Labour Market Research Unit (SLMRU) today (Monday). John McGrath made his comments at a two-day skills forecasting event which is taking place today and tomorrow at the RDS, Dublin and will allow 50 delegates from across the EU to peer review methods for forecasting skills needs for the economy and share best practice.

The event, which is running under the auspices of the European Commission’s Mutual Learning Programme is being hosted by SOLAS, the Further Education and Training Authority. It explores how skills forecasting influences policy areas including education and training, labour market activation, migration, enterprise development and career guidance. Speakers include Fabio Manca from the OECD, who will discuss Assessing and Anticipating Changing Skill Needs, and Michael Horgan from the European Commission, who will provide an introduction to the New Skills Agenda for Europe.

SOLAS CEO, Paul O’Toole said: “In Ireland, it is crucial that we anticipate and plan for our future skills needs in order to maintain our competitiveness, and to ensure we continue to support the domestic economy and attract foreign direct investment. While the historical and current demand for skills can be estimated using employment statistics such as employment by occupation and education level attained, information on the future demand for skills is more difficult to ascertain. This is why mutual learning events, such as the one SOLAS is pleased to host this week, are so important.”

The importance of information on forecasting the demand for skills is illustrated by the investments made by the EU through the work of European Centre for Development of Vocational Training -CEDEFOP, which has been given a mandate by the Council to produce such forecasts every two years for the European labour market and at individual member state level.

In Ireland, forecasting of skills demand first started in the early 1990s. In 2009, the models were transferred from the ESRI to the SOLAS SLMRU, which provides research support to the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs. The models were integrated into the National Skills Database, which has been a platform for the identification of skills needs in Ireland for almost two decades. Since the transfer, the SLMRU has been responsible for producing national occupational employment projections.

Occupational employment projections have been widely used for providing estimates on the expansion demand across the occupational spectrum. Together with estimates of replacement demand, they give a good indication of the requirement for an occupation and guidance on future skills needs. Forecasts have been used across a variety of policy areas, most recently in the development of the National Skills Strategy 2025.

This two-day event will provide an opportunity for delegates to peer review their experiences of forecasting models and methodology and will aim to further enhance national forecasting as well as EU-wide forecasting.

For more information contact Nikki Gallagher, Director of Communications, SOLAS at 087-6490092