Between November 7-9, SKYLA partners gathered in Fingal, Ireland to explore the county’s Skills Strategy.SKYLA is a SMART Interreg Europe project with 11 regional partners seeking to put VET at the centre of smart specialisation for the twin transition. Adrian Henchy, mayor of Fingal County Council opened the project’s second work meeting. He welcomed project partners and reaffirmed Fingal’s interest in the SKYLA project, particularly in improving VET provisions: “VET is particularly important for Fingal County Council, as we are always looking to diversity our education offer to our citizens”.
The morning session was kicked off with a policy needs presentation by partners and a policy needs analysis by Advisory Partner EARLALL. The discussions concluded that partners faced more similarities in their policy needs analysis than challenges and that further exchanges bilaterally and within the project were needed to address these common challenges. In the afternoon, SKYLA’s lead partner ASEV – Agenzia per lo Sviluppo Empolese Valdelsa, introduced the concept of policy improvement as an expected result of the project.
Partners had the opportunity to hear from and meet the diverse stakeholders that make the Fingal Skills Strategy, the first county in Ireland to have such a strategy, a success. The Fingal Skills Strategy was developed as an objective under the Fingal Local Economic & Community Plan (LECP) 2016 – 2020 and is the first cross-sector skills strategy developed at a local level in Ireland. The purpose of the Strategy is to implement a range of recommendations and actions to grow the skills of the workforce in the local area, benefiting both citizens and employers.
On the first day, partners heard from Nora Condon, Skills and Labour Market Research Unit, SOLAS (A state agency that oversees the building of a world-class Further Education and Training (FET) sector in Ireland, developing skills to fuel Ireland’s future). SOLAS gathers data from many sources, including data from the central statistics office, and then uses this data to propose which skills and occupations need to be provided for in regional training centres. They work closely with training stakeholders in Fingal, including the Baldoyle Training Centre that partners visited on the second day.
Moreover, Natasha Kinsella, Regional Skills Manager, Dublin Regional Skills Forum, discussed their work on fostering stronger links between enterprises and training providers. Dublin Regional Skills provides an analysis of regional employers’ needs and then they ensure the provision delivers on what the data requires, based on a strong process of engagement with business. The focus is on understanding skills requirements from an occupational point of view.
On the second day, partners in SKYLA were able to meet and engage with the local stakeholders that bring the Fingal Skills Strategy to life. They visited the Baldoyle Training Centre, part of the Dublin and Dan Laoghaire Education and Training Board (DDLWTB). The Training Centre offers a wide range of day and night courses for unemployed people across several locations North County Dublin, as well as apprenticeships, short courses and flexible courses for reskilling and upskilling. Courses include skills for professions in Truck driving, Barista services, Hospitality, Beauty, Electronics and Engineering, and Bike mechanics, among others. Through exchange with the centre staff, partners identified the following elements as best practices in the centre, including the strong engagement with local stakeholders, including the Dublin Skills Forum, SOLAS and Fingal County Council.
– Moreover, the concept of good practices was introduced. These are initiatives that have proved successful, with the potential of being transferred to different geographical areas. In the case of SKYLA, this includes initiatives that put skills at the centre of the twin transition, e.g. by adapting the role of VET in innovation ecosystems and S3.
Partners had the opportunity to explore such good practices in Fingal County, the first county in Ireland to implement their own skills strategy. Partners visited the Baldoyle Training Centre, an impressive centre that provides apprenticeships, VET courses, night courses and micro-credentials tailored to the skills needs of the local industry. Their strategy includes strong stakeholder engagements and industry links, as well as compliance with the national requirements of training provisions set out by SOLAS.