Education must be unconstrained by employers' influence

12 Dec 2018

Third Level

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions General Secretary, Patricia King has requested an urgent meeting with the Minister for Education and Skills, Joe McHugh TD to raise the grave concerns of Congress with media reports of his predecessor, Richard Bruton’s plan to give business and industry a greater say in the strategic direction of education policy and spending (The Irish Times, December 10th).

As the Report of the Expert Group on Future Funding for Higher Education points out, employers are major beneficiaries of a skilled and educated workforce.

‘Congress agrees with the recommendation in the Report that employers should be required to make an enhanced contribution to the funding of higher education. However, it is a worrying development that Government plans to trade a greater say for employers in education policy in return for the increase in the National Training Fund levy’ said Congress social policy officer, Dr Laura Bambrick.

In her letter to the Minister, Patricia King is unequivocal: ‘Education policy and decision-making must continue to be autonomous and unconstrained of employers.’

‘This move not only erodes academic freedom; such a policy approach is out of step with the times’ Ms King added.

Rapid technological advancements and multiple career changes over longer working lives means today’s students/ tomorrow’s workers require a broad set of transferable skills and competencies if they are to achieve to their full potential.

‘The Fund’s priority cannot be confined to initiatives directly relevant to the needs of employers. Upskilling and reskilling opportunities must be made available for all workers, especially workers at risk of displacement from technology, Brexit and the transition to a low carbon economy. As we have seen in recent weeks, workers in carbon heavy sectors face significant employment challenges’ added Dr Bambrick.