Donegal ETB FET Staff Hear from Future of Work Expert

Three people standing in front of a banner.
Three people standing in front of a banner.
Dr Bridgita Kelly, Dr Oran Doherty and Adele McElhinney who spoke to Donegal ETB’s Further Education and Training (FET) staff at a professional development seminar on 12 October.

Leading future of work expert, Dr Oran Doherty was the keynote speaker at Donegal ETB’s professional development seminar for its Further Education and Training (FET) Service staff today.

This was the first in-person professional learning and development event of this size for FET staff since 2019.

Large group of people
Some of the almost 170 FET staff who attended today’s seminar.

Almost 170 FET staff were welcomed to the annual seminar by Donegal ETB’s Director of FET Ciaran O’Brien who reflected on the disruption over the last three years and the significant challenges the pandemic presented the Service. He noted that, “Despite the challenges, [the Service] has achieved a great deal including the opening of two new FET centres in Letterkenny, improvements to the overall estate through devolved capital and repairs and maintenance funding and a welcome capital investment announced by Minister Harris during his recent visit.”

He continued, “We continue to respond with agility and speed in both our delivery and administrative support. Areas such as Apprenticeship and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) provision are recent exemplars of our ability as a whole service to rise to whatever challenge comes our way.”

Noting that this was a long overdue opportunity for staff to meet and network with colleagues from across the Service, he highlighted the wide group of presenters: “I’m delighted that you will get the opportunity to hear from our keynote speaker, Dr Oran Doherty, who will talk to us about the future of work and work-based learning.”

Person speaking behind a mike.
Dr Oran Doherty.

Dr Oran Doherty who is the Ibec Manager for the Apprenticeship in Retail Supervision Programme has held several managerial positions responsible for the design and delivery of work-based learning programmes and has published several national sectoral skills reports that examine emerging skills for the future workplace which have been extensively used by industry and education providers in the design of new programmes. He spoke to staff on what the future of work looks like and what that means for skills development, asking “If we don’t know what the future skills are, we won’t understand what training we should be providing. What skills are employers really looking for?”

He explored trends in employment, highlighting the most in-demand jobs in Ireland and globally, along with the top five human skills for employers – collaboration and teamwork, accountability and reliability, reasoning and problem-solving, active learning and curiosity and resilience and adaptability (Manpower Planning, September 2023). Dr Doherty argued that an additional human skill of building relationships should also be considered, with all of this requiring a need to focus on transferable skills rather than skills disciplines. Human skills, along with digital skills and business acumen are key to the future of work.

Donegal ETB’s Regional Literacy Coordinator Adele McElhinny provided an overview of the FET Adult Literacy for Life (ALL) Strategy which was launched by Minister Simon Harris TD in September 2021. Nationally one in five (18%) of the adult population struggles with understanding and reading everyday text, while one in four (25%) adults has difficulties in using everyday maths. She highlighted however, that literacy is not just about reading, writing and using numbers – it also includes digital skills, self-confidence, listening and speaking and understanding.

She emphasised that literacy changes lives: “It affects everybody, every day. Anyone who has an unmet literacy need will experience social exclusion and feel isolated. Everyone, across every part of society, both professionally and personally, has a responsibility to help bridge the gap for people. As we go about our lives, we need to be literacy aware.”

Six people standing side by side.
FET staff with Donegal ETB Chief Executive Anne McHugh (l-r): Tricia, Margery, Anne, Rosaleen, Julie and Josephine.

Adele challenged FET staff to consider “How can we be literacy-friendly in our approach to our work?”

The final speaker, Dr Bridgita Kelly, FET Programme Development Coordinator, spoke about Erasmus+ opportunities for students and staff which would, for example, allow students to apply soft skills learned in the classroom to an external environment. Staff heard about funding available through Erasmus+ in adult education, schools, education, vocational education and training and youth. Examples were provided of previous experiences from Youthreach, Errigal College (PLC students) and Gairmscoil Mhic Diarmada.

Donegal ETB’s Chief Executive Anne McHugh closed the event by telling staff, “You are the lifeblood of the FET Service – if you’re not with us the students can’t progress and do so well. Tutors delivering is one part but the wrap-around that’s also provided by all the other staff is also required. Ethos values of care, equality, respect, and community values are core to the work that you do.”

Donegal ETB is the largest provider of Further Education and Training (FET) in Co. Donegal, with over 14,000 students completing courses in more than 120 venues last year, leading to certification at Levels 1-6 on the National Framework of Qualifications, as well as a wide range of industry and vendor certificates.

Group of people standing in front of banners.
Seminar speakers seated with Donegal ETB Chief Executive Anne McHugh (front centre) and Director of FET Ciaran O’Brien (front, second from left). Back row, left-right: Aidan McCloskey (Adult Education Officer), Colm Richardson (Assistant Training Centre Manager), Mairead Carlin (Assistant Training Centre Manager and seminar organiser), Treasa McGinley (Technology Enhanced Learning and Development Coordinator and seminar organiser), Vinny McGroary (Area Training Manager) and Charles Gorney (Adult Education Officer).