Irish workers far less likely to participate in on-the-job training
Irish workers are significantly less likely to participate in job-related training schemes than the European average - and the figures are even worse for lower-skilled workers here.
Across the European Union almost one in three workers participated in training courses related to their professional activity in 2016, according to figures from Eurostat.
In the Netherlands the figure is as high as 61pc, and Sweden and Finland both recorded significantly more workers who were also involved in some form of work-related training than not.
Here, the figure in 2016 was 23.3pc, below the EU average, though Ireland does beat a club of under-achievers in Greece and Romania (8pc each) as well as Italy (11pc).
The data counts those in training by including non-formal vocational education, formal courses and seminars, which improve knowledge, skill, competences and qualifications for professional reasons.
The Irish data suggests that one route to plugging emerging skills gaps in the economy here is to ramp up night courses and on-the-job training, or to encourage more workers to participate in schemes that are available.
The EU-wide data shows that workers with an already high qualification level are more likely to participation in further vocational training.
In the EU 27, 46pc of workers who already had a third-level education level participated in further training, compared to 28pc for workers whose education stopped after secondary school, and 16pc for those who didn't complete secondary school.
Here, more than 30pc of employees who already hold a third-level qualification also participated in job-related training in 2016, compared to 17pc for those with a secondary school education and just 8.4pc of those who left school without any qualification.
In some cases it reflects a formal demand for staff to engage in continuing education in sectors like law and architecture.
Here, the data shows women are significantly more likely to participate in training than their male peers, a feature also seen in almost all other EU member states - the largest gender gap was in Lithuania (44pc of women compared with 31pc men).
The most common reasons given for not participating in training are time, lack of interest and a lack of courses.
Here, skills gaps are emerging as a potential barrier to growth, and a Department of Education Action Plan for Education launched in 2016 set a goal to make Ireland's education and training system the best in Europe by 2026, including a focus on vocational and lifelong learning.
A government information campaign last month said there are over 12,000 apprentices with 4,900 employers participating in the Government-backed apprenticeship schemes.
Under the scheme, traineeships are now offered to people of all ages and backgrounds - including those who are already in jobs - and apprenticeships have been broadened from the craft and trade sectors to areas like accountancy and healthcare, information and communication technology, cybersecurity and animation.
This week, the Restaurants Association of Ireland criticised Government for what it described as potentially crippling skills shortage in the industry, including a shortfall of as many as 8,000 chefs that has forced employers to look oversees for staff.