Ireland has a wide range of VET provision targeted at different client groups, including those in and out of work and those looking for second chance opportunities, according to a recent OECD review.

The review concentrates on second-level education and further education and training, including apprenticeships. The strengths of the system are first noted. The National Qualifications Framework is comprehensive, integrating both vocational and general qualifications and includes a strong commitment to the avoidance of dead-ends and pathways of progression. The review says the apprenticeship system is well-structured. Collaboration with social partners is well-established and the Skillnets initiative, an employer-led training network, is praised.

At the same time, the report says, the economic system is making intense demands on the Irish VET system. The apprenticeship system is particularly affected – it is limited to a narrow set of occupations, many of which have been hit by the crisis. In addition, the review finds that teachers and trainers in VET sometimes lack appropriate pedagogical training and that there are literacy and numeracy problems among VET students. The lack of data and limited use of evaluation evidence also remains a challenge. Career guidance services are fragmented and weakly underpinned by information on labour market opportunities. To address these issues the OECD makes the following recommendations:

-        The Irish system would benefit from more widespread use of workplace training generally.

-        In response to the economic crisis, the OECD proposes the Government should offer differential support to redundant apprentices and look for more cost-effective measures than the current Redundant Apprentice Scheme; consider measures to retrain young people in education and training where benefits outweigh the costs; and carefully target VET programmes to adult learners’ needs.

-       It recommends a review of FÁS-Training and Employment Authority training services with a view to enhancing mechanisms for accountability and quality improvement.

-       The review proposes systematic identification of basic skill problems among those who come into contact with training services and support to those in need.

-       In order to enhance the competences of the VET workforce, all teachers, trainers and instructors should have pedagogical training. The review also calls for convergence in qualification requirements for teaching in different sectors of the VET system.

-       Finally, it recommends better data and evaluation of VET programmes, more research on VET and the creation of a comprehensive website for career guidance.