Explore Programme - Ireland
'EXPLORE' is a national programme designed by the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science in Ireland. Designed as a regional skills initiative in 2018, Explore's pilot phase achieved considerable results, and continued to run throughout 2019, 2021, and 2022. In 2021, the programme took place in 9 regions in Ireland.
On a broader level, Explore aims to address the low level of lifelong learning participation in Ireland. More specifically, the programme targets adults above the age of 35, who work in manufacturing, product supply and design, and related areas.
Background and aims
‘Explore’ is a funding initiative for upskilling, which offers practical solutions to help develop the digital skills of employees in light of increased digitalisation and automation in the workplace. According to the Irish government, 1 out of every 2 people struggle even with the simplest digital tasks: and the programme is grounded in the context of the need to improve the digital literacy of society and the future labour force. Other objectives include:
- Tackling the overall low digital competence of all adults in Ireland, and especially those aged 35 and more;
- Piloting and implementation of an innovative and informed approach to overcoming barriers to participation in lifelong learning amongst Irish society and labour force;
- Addressing a key issue for Ireland: skills obsolescence, which is increasingly becoming a significant concern for employers;
- Showcasing the benefits of collaboration between local Education and Training Providers and Industry.
Why is this a good practice?
Since its start in 2019, the regional skills initiative has been renewed for several years, following the initial good results. Since its launch, a total of 315 employees, representing 145 employers, have completed the training only in the Mid-West region of Ireland, and statistics for the remaining 8 regions mirror these results.
The initiative is relevant and responds to a well-identified need in the Irish labour market: to continue upskilling older employees towards digital, whilst focusing on a range of key industrial sectors, including manufacturing, logistics and hospitality.
The programme scores high in sustainability: it is fully-funded by the Irish government and flexible, offering an opportunity for employers in the sectors listed above to boost digital skills and productivity, and make best use of the skills they already have on board. With lessons learnt over more than 3 years of implementation and analysis stemming from the different regions' performance, this good practice has a sound potential to be replicated and adapted to fit other contexts and target groups.