Solas puts spotlight on work-based learning route back into workforce

FURTHER training and education authority Solas is engaging with home-based women to encourage them to consider retraining to fill a growing number of vacancies across all sectors.

Solas puts spotlight on work-based learning route back into workforce

FURTHER training and education authority Solas is engaging with home-based women to encourage them to consider retraining to fill a growing number of vacancies across all sectors.

Among the sectors with the strongest demand are IT, hospitality, retail, agriculture, healthcare, construction and finance. Just one of series of Solas-led apprenticeships and workplace re-entry initiatives, this particular retraining drive relates to a Solas report entitled ‘Women on Home Duties’.

“While there are almost 220,000 women on home duties, our report suggests that around 16,000 of these women are available for work,” said Nikki Gallagher, director of communications and secretariat with Solas. “There is a huge opportunity and we’re seeing that there is a definite appetite out there among people to return to work.

“We are hearing about workplace skills shortages every day of the week. We are using education and training to respond to the local needs across a range of industries and sectors, based on local intel that we have gathered from within each market.”

The Solas report offers comprehensive insights on the 218,000 women aged between 20 and 64 who are currently not participating in the workforce. Of those, 16,000 could be attracted to join the workforce with the right supports.

The report found that 122,500 of this total have upper secondary education or less; 57,000 have third-level qualifications; and a further 31,700 hold FET (Further Education and Training) qualifications.

Women on home duties with third-level qualifications are younger than those with upper secondary education or less: 62% of those aged under 45 have third-level qualifications, compared to 44% for upper secondary. Some 47% of women with third-level qualifications have children aged five years or younger, compared to 25% for women with upper secondary education or less.

“There’s a common perception that women opt out of the workforce primarily because of childcare duties while their children are young,” said Ms Gallagher. “However, the research we’re publishing today shows only one-third of those not currently working have children under the age of five.

“Low levels of educational attainment, and long periods out of work, can also impact on a woman’s decision to remain at home. Our research shows over 56% of women on home duties have upper secondary education or less. This group are less likely than non-working college graduates to have previous work experience. Of those with previous experience, 63% have not worked in the past eight years.”

In all, 75% of the women with third-level qualifications have a partner in full-time employment. Of the women with upper secondary education or less, 48% have a partner in fulltime employment, while 38% are either lone parents or have a partner who is also inactive in the labour market.

The ‘Women on Home Duties’ report is one of a suite of workforce studies being conducted by Solas. Next up will be a study offering updates on the profiles of older people who could potentially return to active work.

“We are looking to work with people and industries to to promote work-based learning, helping people develop the skill sets they need for current work opportunities,” said Ms Gallagher.

Most people are aware of the drive on to promote apprenticeships in recent years. We’re expanding our activities in work-based further education and training.

The apprenticeships generally involve four days of learning in the workplace and one day of study. For example, IT apprentices spend a day online with Sligo IT, while the financial services apprentices connect with the National College of Ireland.

Launching the ‘Women on Home Duties’ report earlier this week, Solas hosted a panel discussion, notably featuring business leaders who are engaging with the promotion of work-based learning programmes.

These included: Sonya Lennon, founder of Dress for Success Dublin; Joan McNaboe, author of the research report; Joyce Walsh, Head of Leadership and Talent at Ulster Bank Ireland; and Patricia Stafford, a 70-year-old woman who recently completed a Digital Marketing course and now manages a website for her daughter, who is a food blogger.

Speaking at the event, Sonya Lennon said: “When women begin thinking about returning to work, they can feel very disconnected, and lacking in confidence and self-worth.

“There isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ solution to the issue of encouraging more women back to work. A range of supports are needed, including better childcare offerings, flexible and remote working options, and targeted measures focused on upskilling, confidence-building and mentoring. These measures needs to be accompanied by a shift towards inclusive thinking, allowing these women to meet their potential, not just for their own benefit and that of their families, but also of their employers and our society.

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