Digital Skills Divide: Over a Quarter of Ireland’s Workforce Faces Skills Gap, According to SOLAS Report

The ongoing shift towards digitalisation continually brings forth new job roles and necessitates ever-evolving skillsets, particularly in digital competencies. This dynamic nature of the workplace underscores the vital importance of continuous lifelong learning throughout one’s career journey to bridge and prevent skill gaps and to ensure ongoing employability. However, it’s concerning that those with the greatest deficiencies in digital skills often belong to demographic groups with the lowest rates of participation in lifelong learning.

SOLAS, the State agency that oversees the building of a world class Further Education & Training (FET) sector in Ireland, has compiled an analysis of the intricate landscape of digital skills within Ireland’s workforce, leveraging data from the European Skills for Jobs Survey (ESJ Survey) conducted by CEDEFOP in 2014. While serving as a snapshot of the digital skills scenario at that time, it also sets the groundwork for future comparisons, with an update planned for 2021.

Workers’ Perceived Need for ICT Skills: The study reveals that approximately four-fifths of Irish workers find basic or moderate ICT skills essential for their job roles, a percentage higher than the EU-28 average of 71%. Interestingly, the necessity for moderate and advanced ICT skills escalates alongside educational attainment, with nearly one-fifth of third-level graduates in Ireland indicating a demand for advanced ICT competencies. Moreover, while younger cohorts exhibit a greater demand for advanced ICT skills, older workers tend to prioritize moderate to advanced skill levels, surpassing the EU average in this regard.

Changes in Workplace Technologies: An examination of changes in workplace technologies over the past five years demonstrates that 54% of Irish workers have encountered such transformations, a figure exceeding the EU-28 average. Notably, individuals aged between 40 to 54 years report the highest incidence of technological changes, particularly prominent within the ICT, finance, and professional services sectors.

Digital Skills Gap: Over a quarter of Ireland’s workforce acknowledges a digital skills gap, a figure roughly aligning with the EU-28 average. Disparities in digital skills proficiency emerge across various demographics: older age groups, individuals with lower education levels, and workers in lower-skilled occupations and low-paying sectors exhibit heightened instances of digital skills mismatches. Additionally, these groups demonstrate lower participation rates in lifelong learning activities, exacerbating the challenge of bridging the digital divide.

In essence, the analysis underscores the imperative of addressing digital skills disparities to fortify workforce preparedness and competitiveness in an era increasingly defined by digital transformation. It emphasizes the need for targeted interventions and lifelong learning initiatives to ensure equitable access to digital skills development opportunities across all segments of society.

The findings of this report, supported by additional research from CEDEFOP, advocate for targeted interventions to address the digital skill requirements of the workforce. In Ireland, various initiatives are already in operation to meet this demand. Programs such as Skills to Advance by Education and Training Boards, the Explore Programme by the Department of Education and Skills, Springboard+ by third-level institutions, and Skillnets all aim to provide tailored training to meet the evolving needs of employees.

See the detailed report here.


Back to top