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The development of a world-class base of skills has become the key driver of economic growth in the developed world. There is a recognition that future competitive advantages will only emerge through enhancement of workplace skills. Ireland, in particular, is experiencing a significant economic downturn allied to the competitive challenges posed by more open markets.
International and intense competition and technological developments, which are enabling global trading are placing increased pressure for competitiveness and productivity on enterprises. In this kind of climate organisations need to identify the precise areas where they have or can build distinctive strengths that will enable them to compete effectively. In the past, Ireland benefited significantly from the international expansion of markets for trade, capital and labour. Today, with the rapid opening of markets in Eastern Europe and Asia (especially China and India), globalisation presents both opportunities and challenges.
The primary source of continuing skilled labour supply is, and will continue to be, achieved through the training, development, and learning of individuals. In effect, from an employer’s perspective, the focus is on workforce (or professional) development – the upskilling and reskilling of an organisation’s employees at a higher level. Changing employment patterns in the organisation of work have impacted on the demand for higher level skills. Employees are expected to be more flexible, have a broader range of skills, and be more competent at managing their own career and development. Graduate-level skills and qualifications are seen as increasingly important in the changing workplace. Knowledge creation and the deployment of new knowledge in the workplace have given rise to the workplace itself being recognised as a site of learning and knowledge production. Brennan (2005) suggests that, if higher education is to continue to make a contribution to the knowledge economy, collaborative learning activities based in and around the workplace should be considered.
Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) are expected to be responsive to the needs of the economy and of the labour market, while at the same time affording citizens the right to appropriate levels of education to sustain economies in stable societies. Langworthy and Turner (2003) describe the University role within a complex process requiring forecasting of emerging workplace skills needs and a trend towards lifelong learning in a model of engaged scholarship. The growing interest in the interface between the higher education sector and the world of work at European Union and national levels is evident as an increasing number of research projects, incentives and initiatives now have a distinct enterprise and labour market focus.
Sheridan, I. and Murphy, J. Customised Learning Development - An exploration of Practice. Published by CIT Press, Bishopstown, Cork, Ireland. 2012.