SOLAS Welcomes Increase in Lifelong Learning Participation Rate to 14%


Ireland’s lifelong learning participation rate has increased to 14% from 11.8%. That’s according to SOLAS, the Further Education and Training Authority who launched a report today, (19.06.2024) highlighting some of the key findings of lifelong learning participation rates amongst adults in Ireland.

The report, which is compiled by the Skills and Labour Market Research Unit in SOLAS using the CSO’s Labour Force Survey, details lifelong learning participation amongst adults in Ireland and shows that in Q4 2023 Ireland has seen substantially higher numbers participating in lifelong learning activities as compared to the same time last year.

The data focuses on quarter 4 of 2023 and identifies how lifelong learning participation rates differ amongst different cohorts of the population. Lifelong learning measures include formal and non-formal learning activities that individuals may undertake throughout their lives.

Key findings from the report:

  • Ireland’s lifelong learning (LLL) rate increased to 14% in quarter 4 2023 from just under 12% in quarter 4 2022.

  • In quarter 4 2023, of the nearly 2.78 million adults aged between 25 and 64 years in Ireland, 388,700 people had engaged in formal and/or non-formal learning activities in the preceding four weeks. This is the highest number of adult lifelong learners to date.

  • The number of lifelong learning participants grew by a fifth, with 64,700 extra learners (From Q4 2022 – Q4 2023).

  • Lifelong learning rates decreased with age but increased with greater educational attainment.

Commenting on the launch of the report, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Patrick O’Donovan TD said: “We are delighted to see so many adults in Ireland participating in lifelong learning in Q4 2023. Our commitment is to ensure that everyone, no matter what their previous level of education, or age, has access to lifelong learning opportunities that fit with people’s personal and work commitments, and that they are encouraged to participate throughout their lives.”

“The report shows higher rates of participation for females, people aged less than 45 years, and those who held a third level qualifications. However, the scale and pace of global change requires us to do even more. We must now continue to increase engagement in lifelong learning activities in Ireland but also focus on widening participation for some of those cohorts who are less likely to take part.”

Data in the report shows that most importantly, older workers, those with lower education attainment and those working in certain sectors or occupations should be further encouraged to avail of the learning opportunities and supports available to them.”

Also commenting on the report, Andrew Brownlee, CEO of SOLAS said: “We are really pleased to see an increase in the lifelong learning participation rate in Ireland. This is in keeping with the unprecedented growth and demand that Further Education and Training provision (FET) experienced in 2023.”

“Additional data from SOLAS shows that the FET learner base has grown by 17% from 2022 to 2023, with one in ten adults in Ireland engaged in apprenticeships, our construction skills schemes or other FET activity last year. The LLL report also shows that the increase in formal learning participation was driven by increased participation in FET programmes.”

“These figures give us a strong indication that FET is playing an important role in supporting the increase in lifelong learning participation. FET is delivering for individuals, communities and society, and is driving both economic development, societal wellbeing and social cohesion.”

“Our focus will be to ensure that FET continues to support an increase in lifelong learning in Ireland, creating a society that values learning at all stages of people’s lives. It is also important that we continue to provide diverse and flexible FET provision that will support people to achieve their goals – whether that’s learning a new skill, pursuing a passion, or taking up a course to improve self-confidence and mental well-being.”

Read the full report here