Sustainable Third Level Education System Crucial for Ireland’s Future Growth

Wexford Chamber has congratulated Ireland’s class of 2011 on receiving their Leaving Certificate results. This year has been especially important with reports showing that the number of students staying in school to complete their second level education is now at 87.7%, the highest rate ever. Although school leavers are entering into one of the toughest labour markets Ireland has ever seen, the increase in participation in education and the up-skilling of Ireland’s labour force will continue to contribute to Ireland’s economic growth.

Madeleine Quirke, Chief Executive, Wexford Chamber said, “Regardless of their satisfaction with today’s results, all students should see the Leaving Certificate not as the finishing line, but as a gateway to lifelong learning. Ireland’s economy is changing rapidly and, in order to keep pace, re-skilling and up-skilling has become increasingly important.”

“We urge every student to consider all of the options they have before them, and to pay particular attention to areas of potential employment growth. In previous years virtually any degree could ensure employment but now students need to think hard about the career path that they will follow.”

“Expected growth areas are not just limited to the fields of Maths and Science. The Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN) highlighted in their 2011 Skills Bulletin that, despite the recession, job vacancies continue to arise with an increase in the level of vacancies in the first quarter of 2011 compared with 2010. Vacancies arose within a wide range of industries including clerical, sales and service occupations, and many in ICT, engineering, healthcare, finance and customer care,” she said.

“To secure and retain employment in these and other sectors students will need to be flexible and willing to master new skills and ways of working. The wider third level and employment training sectors will also have to offer up-skilling and re-skilling options for all members of the workforce in the coming years. These will have to be made available on a full-time, a part-time and an online basis to enable Ireland’s workforce to retrain.”

Wexford Chamber together with Chambers Ireland is also calling on the Minister for Education to reconsider the option of introducing a loan scheme to students to help pay towards their third level education. The cost to the State to fund higher education stands at €1.3bn a year and is expected to rise to €1.8bn a year by 2020. This is not sustainable given the current economic difficulties. It is imperative that Ireland’s education system moves forward and adopts a financing method similar to that already successfully in place in the US, the UK and Canada.

“Finally, we congratulate the students, their teachers and their families on their achievements and wish them well in their future studies and careers,” Quirke concluded.