Irish employee training and skills survey

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A new working conditions survey assessing employee skills and training levels in Ireland was published by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) in February 2009. The survey reveals that 45.5% of all enterprises provided internal and/or external training courses for their employees. Course attendees spent an average of 3.2 days on courses, while employers spent an average of €254 per employee on training. The study points to considerable differences in training provision and skills shortages by sector and company size. A particularly significant finding is the high percentage of enterprises that have acute shortages of managerial skills.

Training provision

Duration of training

Cost of training

Skills shortages

Reasons for skills shortages

Skills in need of upgrading

Preferred means of tackling skills gap

Employee methods of acquiring skills

Methodology

Commentary


Training provision

In relation to training provision, the survey findings reveal that some 45.5% of all enterprises in 2006 provided internal and/or external training courses for their employees (Table 1). This ranged from 25% of enterprises in the hotels and restaurants sector to 93.2% in public administration and defence. In terms of company size, based on the number of employees, 100% of large enterprises (250 or more employees) provided such courses, while only 43% of small enterprises (3–49 employees) did so.

Table 1: Enterprises providing training courses in 2006 (%)
NACE sector Internal training External training All training courses
Manufacturing, mining and quarrying, electricity, gas and water supply 36.3 39.7 52.3
Construction 16.1 36.8 46.4
Wholesale and retail 18.4 31.6 40.0
Hotels and restaurants 15.1 17.9 25.0
Transport, storage and communication 19.0 25.5 35.5
Financial intermediation 49.5 55.7 73.7
Business services 24.8 47.5 56.5
Public administration and defence 80.2 86.5 93.2
Education 40.2 45.9 65.2
Health 32.9 57.1 65.5
Other services 26.9 40.8 49.6
Total 22.3 36.2 45.5
Size of enterprise (number of employees)      
3–49 employees 19.4 34.0 43.0
50–249 employees 64.1 70.8 85.7
250 employees 93.8 88.6 100.0
Total 22.3 36.2 45.5

Note: NACE refers to the Statistical Classification of Economic Activities in the European Community (Nomenclature statistique des activités économiques dans la Communauté européenne, NACE).

Figures shown refer to the proportion of enterprises providing training courses in 2006 as a percentage of all enterprises.

Source: CSO, 2009

A total of 45.1% of all employees attended such courses in 2006 (Table 2). Regarding the gender breakdown of training provision, there was almost an equal split between men and women in this respect: 45.2% of all male employees participated in training courses, compared with 45% of all female employees.

Table 2: Employees participating in training courses in 2006, by gender (%)
NACE sector Men Women All
Manufacturing, mining and quarrying, electricity, gas and water supply 50.8 46.9 49.5
Construction 34.3 21.8 33.0
Wholesale and retail 34.3 25.4 29.8
Hotels and restaurants 27.1 30.4 28.9
Transport, storage and communication 49.8 38.3 46.1
Financial intermediation 69.2 57.3 62.0
Business services 41.6 36.2 39.1
Public administration and defence 69.2 69.4 69.2
Education 62.8 68.8 67.0
Health 53.8 57.8 57.1
Other services 32.0 37.9 35.3
Total 45.2 45.0 45.1
Size of enterprise (number of employees)      
3–49 employees 25.7 24.7 25.3
50–249 employees 46.1 44.7 45.5
250 employees 60.9 56.3 58.5
Total 45.2 45.0 45.1

Note: Figures shown refer to the proportion of employees participating in training courses in 2006 as a percentage of all employees.

Source: CSO, 2009



Duration of training

Regarding the duration of training, course attendees spent an average of 3.2 days on training courses in 2006 (Table 3). Course attendees in large enterprises spent longer on training courses (3.6 days) than those in small enterprises (2.4 days).

Table 3: Average number of paid working days spent on training courses in 2006, by course attendee and by employee
NACE sector Per course attendee Per employee
Manufacturing, mining and quarrying, electricity, gas and water supply 3.3 1.6
Construction 1.7 0.6
Wholesale and retail 1.9 0.6
Hotels and restaurants 1.6 0.5
Transport, storage and communication 3.9 1.8
Financial intermediation 2.5 1.5
Business services 3.9 1.5
Public administration and defence 7.9 5.5
Education 2.2 1.5
Health 2.0 1.1
Other services 3.0 1.1
Total 3.2 1.4
Size of enterprise (number of employees)    
3–49 employees 2.4 0.6
50–249 employees 2.5 1.1
250 employees 3.6 2.1
Total 3.2 1.4

Source: CSO, 2009



Cost of training

The estimated total cost of training courses in 2006 was €413,665,000 (Table 4). This figure comprised €336,782,000 for course fees, €47,249,000 for travel and subsistence for course attendees, and €29,634,000 for the cost of premises used for the training courses. Employers spent an average of €254 per employee on training in 2006. The average cost of training per employee in small enterprises was €119 compared with €345 in large enterprises. The average cost per course attendee was €564.

Table 4: Estimated training costs of enterprises in 2006, by cost type and per employee and attendee
NACE sector Fees(in 000s of €) Travel(in 000s of €) Premises(in 000s of €) Total(in 000s of €) Per employee(in €) Per attendee(in €)
Manufacturing, mining and quarrying, electricity, gas and water supply 53,862 4,760 1,781 60,403 253 543
Construction 14,554 739 431 15,725 115 347
Wholesale and retail 27,186 3,094 2,614 32,895 115 387
Hotels and restaurants 4,476 690 566 5,731 42 145
Transport, storage and communication 14,932 1,584 1,676 18,192 215 465
Financial intermediation 38,766 3,497 10,680 52,942 656 1,059
Business services 62,423 7,306 3,738 73,467 381 974
Public administration and defence 60,900 9,686 3,391 73,976 603 871
Education 15,902 12,208 1,253 29,363 258 385
Health 34,442 2,735 1,714 38,890 230 404
Other services 9,340 951 1,791 12,081 188 532
Total 336,782 47,249 29,634 413,665 254 564
Size of enterprise (number of employees)            
3–49 employees 55,072 7,203 3,367 65,642 119 473
50–249 employees 62,097 6,131 3,196 71,423 260 573
250 employees 219,614 33,915 23,071 276,601 345 589
Total 336,782 47,249 29,634 413,665 254 564

Source: CSO, 2009



Skills shortages

The survey findings also pointed to significant shortages of skills in the enterprises assessed. Overall, some 12.6% of enterprises reported acute shortages of English language skills among at least some of their employees (Table 5). In the hotels and restaurants sector, this figure rose to 26.7%. Moreover, a substantial percentage of enterprises reported an acute shortage of management and supervisory skills, with 12.6% of all enterprises reporting acute shortages in this respect. The same applied in relation to technical and practical skills, with 10.8% of all enterprises recording acute shortages of such skills. On the other hand, only 2.5% and 3% respectively of enterprises reported an acute shortage of numeracy and literacy skills. Overall, 46.6% of all enterprises reported having at least some acute shortage of particular skills.

Table 5: Enterprises with acute skills shortages, by skills type (%)
NACE sector English language skills Literacy skills Management skills Numeracy skills Technical/ practical skills Any acute skills shortage
Manufacturing, mining and quarrying, electricity, gas and water supply 18.1 2.3 12.9 4.9 14.8 51.8
Construction 12.6 2.6 9.8 0.7 14.7 42.1
Wholesale and retail 11.2 2.6 14.1 2.9 7.6 44.1
Hotels and restaurants 26.7 2.4 12.9 2.4 7.0 50.1
Transport, storage and communication 11.4 1.9 7.1 0.3 7.0 50.2
Financial intermediation 1.1 2.7 9.8 3.8 12.3 43.9
Business services 6.8 4.3 13.8 2.8 11.6 46.7
Public administration and defence n.a. 3.1 16.7 9.9 11.5 52.6
Education 12.9 5.8 24 1.9 7.5 65.2
Health 13.1 5.6 13.9 1.9 9.5 50.2
Other services 4.7 3.1 10.2 2.7 16.3 49
Total 12.6 3 12.6 2.5 10.8 46.6
Size of enterprise (number of employees)            
3–49 employees 12.2 3.0 11.8 2.3 10.4 45.8
50–249 employees 21.3 3.3 23.9 4.4 17.3 62.0
250 employees 15.4 3.7 29.2 3.2 17.9 58.9
Total 12.6 3.0 12.6 2.5 10.8 46.6

Note: n.a. = not applicable because too small for estimate

Source: CSO, 2009



Reasons for skills shortages

A number of reasons were put forward to explain the shortage of skills. A total of 15.8% of enterprises cited a lack of experience or the recent recruitment of staff as being the most common reason for the acute shortage of particular skills (Table 6). A further 10.3% of enterprises attributed the skills shortage, at least partially, to the poor quality of candidates, while 4.4% linked it to a failure to train and develop staff. In terms of company size, medium-sized enterprises (50–249 employees) seem to have the most skills development problems on the basis of the various reasons given for skills shortages.

Table 6: Reasons cited by enterprises for skills shortages (%)
NACE sector Recruit-ment problems Poor quality of candidates Lack of experience High staff turnover Staff not motivated to acquire skills Failure to train and develop staff
Manufacturing, mining and quarrying, electricity, gas and water supply 7.9 8.8 16.9 3.4 8.6 4.2
Construction 3.3 8.1 11.7 2.4 7.7 2.5
Wholesale and retail 5.3 11.0 15.7 5.2 6.8 5.6
Hotels and restaurants 7.6 14.3 18.7 12.6 10.4 3.5
Transport, storage and communication 5.1 15.9 13.9 5.7 5.0 3.7
Financial intermediation 7.4 7.3 20.7 4.6 3.0 3.2
Business services 6.9 8.6 15.6 4.3 6.3 4.5
Public administration and defence 7.8 n.a. 13.5 6.3 1.6 7.3
Education 2.2 12.4 21.5 1.9 12.2 10.0
Health 5.2 11.4 20.7 5.4 13.0 4.1
Other services 3.7 8.8 16.8 3.8 8.3 6.3
Total 5.6 10.3 15.8 5.2 7.7 4.4
Size of enterprise (number of employees)            
3–49 employees 5.2 10.0 15.3 4.6 7.7 4.3
50–249 employees 12.2 15.7 23.0 15.8 8.4 7.0
250 employees 10.1 14.1 22.9 13.0 5.7 6.9
Total 5.6 10.3 15.8 5.2 7.7 4.4

Note: n.a. = not applicable because too small for estimate

Source: CSO, 2009



Skills in need of upgrading

This section examines the various skills areas that need upgrading among the different occupational groups, namely: management, professional and associate professional staff; clerical, sales and service employees; and production, transport, craft, manual and other employees. The distinction is made between occupational groups to highlight the specific groups where skills are deficient. Some interesting differences also emerge in relation to sector and organisational size.

Regarding the category of management, professional and associate professional employees, some 22.8% of all enterprises reported that employees in this group required an upgrading of information technology (IT) skills (Table 7). In terms of company size, this requirement varied from 34.3% and 32.8% of medium-sized and large enterprises respectively to 22.2% of small enterprises. It is highly significant, and indeed quite striking, that over a fifth (21.2%) of enterprises reported the need for employees in these occupations to improve their management skills. Moreover, a further 12.1% of enterprises reported that their management, professional and associate professional employees needed to upgrade their technical and practical skills.

Table 7: Enterprises reporting a need for skills upgrading among management, professionals and associate professionals, by skills type (%)
NACE sector Communic-ations/ customer service skills IT skills Language skills Management skills Numeracy/ literacy skills Technical/ practical skills
Manufacturing, mining and quarrying, electricity, gas and water supply 11.0 27.7 5.8 25.3 2.4 11.1
Construction 5.0 14.1 2.3 12.4 2.1 7.7
Wholesale and retail 8.8 24.2 4.3 20.2 2.3 8.3
Hotels and restaurants 9.4 14.4 7.3 14.8 4.3 7.0
Transport, storage and communication 6.7 25.3 7.3 17.7 0.1 9.3
Financial intermediation 13.8 32.8 8.9 33.2 2.8 17.7
Business services 16.0 30.9 6.3 29.9 4.1 24.0
Public administration and defence 17.7 43.8 9.4 46.9 4.7 23.4
Education 23.9 24.2 10.5 27.2 4.3 9.2
Health 19.4 30.5 10.8 28.4 4.1 19.8
Other services 17.8 21.3 9.7 26.8 2.1 15.5
Total 10.8 22.8 5.7 21.2 2.8 12.1
Size of enterprise (number of employees)            
3–49 employees 10.1 22.2 5.6 19.7 2.7 11.4
50–249 employees 21.9 34.3 7.7 44.5 4.7 22.6
250 employees 29.3 32.8 6.0 54.3 2.5 30.1
Total 10.8 22.8 5.7 21.2 2.8 12.1

Note: Figures show the proportion of enterprises reporting a need for skills upgrading as a percentage of all enterprises.

Source: CSO, 2009

In relation to the category of clerical, sales and service employees, some 19.5% of enterprises reported that employees required an upgrading of IT skills (Table 8). This figure rose to 32.8% for employees in large enterprises. A further 18.3% of enterprises cited a need to upgrade communications and customer service skills among clerical, sales and service employees.

Table 8: Enterprises reporting a need for skills upgrading among clerical, sales and service employees, by skills type (%)
NACE sector Communic-ations/ customer service skills IT skills Language skills Management skills Numeracy/ literacy skills Technical/ practical skills
Manufacturing, mining and quarrying, electricity, gas and water supply 14.8 25.7 3.8 5.3 1.8 10.5
Construction 4.6 11.4 1.1 4.5 2.7 3.8
Wholesale and retail 30.7 25.4 7.4 9.1 4.2 11.5
Hotels and restaurants 19.4 10.5 17.6 5.3 3.6 6.1
Transport, storage and communication 19.0 22.1 5.9 5.4 2.2 11.2
Financial intermediation 29.2 29.6 6.3 7.5 8.6 27.2
Business services 13.3 19.7 3.6 7.5 3.4 8.1
Public administration and defence 31.3 39.1 10.4 6.3 8.9 14.6
Education 15.5 21.9 6.9 2.8 1.7 10.4
Health 21.4 27.7 6.7 7.6 5.5 10.4
Other services 15.8 17.4 7.0 7.2 3.8 10.2
Total 18.3 19.5 6.5 6.8 3.5 8.9
Size of enterprise (number of employees)            
3–49 employees 17.3 18.7 6.2 6.7 3.3 8.4
50–249 employees 34.7 31.3 10.9 7.7 7.1 17.4
250 employees 36.2 36.1 8.8 7.8 5.9 16.3
Total 18.3 19.5 6.5 6.8 3.5 8.9

Note: Figures show the proportion of enterprises reporting a need for skills upgrading as a percentage of all enterprises.

Source: CSO, 2009

Finally, with respect to employees working in production, transport, craft and other manual occupations, some 12.3% of all enterprises reported that employees in this category needed to upgrade their technical and practical skills (Table 9). A higher proportion of large enterprises (21%) than small enterprises (11.9%) cited the need for upgrading of technical/practical skills among employees in this category. Just over one in 10 enterprises (10.1%) indicated that these employees’ communications and customer service skills also required upgrading.

Table 9: Enterprises reporting a need for skills upgrading among production, transport, craft and other manual employees, by skills type (%)
NACE sector Communic-ations/ customer service skills IT skills Language skills Management skills Numeracy/ literacy skills Technical/ practical skills
Manufacturing, mining and quarrying, electricity, gas and water supply 12.7 12.1 16.8 3.9 4.1 24.8
Construction 11.8 6.4 11.6 4.9 4.5 27.9
Wholesale and retail 6.9 5.9 5.3 1.5 1.9 7.6
Hotels and restaurants 19.4 3.4 14.9 2.7 2.3 5.4
Transport, storage and communication 21.6 7.1 12.0 4.2 2.8 8.0
Financial intermediation 2.2 0 0 0.1 2.0 0.1
Business services 4.4 3.1 4.4 1.7 2.0 5.7
Public administration and defence 19.3 18.8 6.3 5.2 7.3 17.2
Education 3.2 1.8 4.5 2.2 1.1 2.5
Health 6.3 2.9 4.6 0.6 1.9 7.7
Other services 10.2 3.9 3.6 2.8 3.4 13.7
Total 10.1 5.4 8.4 2.7 2.8 12.3
Size of enterprise (number of employees)            
3–49 employees 9.8 5.1 8.1 2.6 2.7 11.9
50–249 employees 13.9 8.4 14.1 4.3 4.0 18.9
250 employees 15.1 15.5 13.8 2.8 6.5 21.0
Total 10.1 5.4 8.4 2.7 2.8 12.3

Note: Figures show the proportion of enterprises reporting a need for skills upgrading as a percentage of all enterprises.

Source: CSO, 2009

In comparing the findings for all three major occupational groups (Tables 7–9), it emerges that the management and professional groups have the highest percentage of acute skills shortages overall – particularly in relation to management and IT skills (Table 7). The need for skills upgrading seems to be lower among occupational groups that are perceived to be less qualified. However, this may simply imply that the skills requirements for some of these occupations are lower anyway and that the lower skill levels required for these jobs are in greater supply.

In relation to company size, the findings in Tables 7–9 clearly show that the larger companies in particular have acute shortages of management skills. For instance, some 54.3% of enterprises with 250 or more employees have acute shortages of management skills among management and professional occupations (Table 7). This compares with 19.7% of enterprises with 3–49 employees for the same occupational group.

Some interesting differences also emerge between the different sectors shown in Tables 7–9. For example, a considerably higher proportion of public administration and defence employees seem to need to upgrade their IT, management and technical/practical skills. In fact, high levels of IT skills deficiencies are identified in many sectors. The financial intermediation sector is also identified as having serious skills deficiencies in areas such as IT, management and technical/practical skills.



Preferred means of tackling skills gap

The results in Tables 10–12 below identify the preferred ways of tackling the skills gaps for each occupational group. For instance, almost 23% of enterprises cited on-the-job training as one of their preferred methods of addressing the skills gaps among management, professional and associate professional staff (Table 10). The use of training courses or hiring of experienced staff were also cited as popular means of counteracting the skills gap in this occupational group, at 19.3% and 15.3% respectively.

Table 10: Enterprises’ preferred means of addressing skills gap among management, professional and associate professional staff (%)
NACE sector Hiring experienced staff Training courses On-the-job training Self-directed learning
Manufacturing, mining and quarrying, electricity, gas and water supply 17.2 26.5 25.7 7.3
Construction 8.5 10.4 12.2 4.5
Wholesale and retail 14.9 16.8 21.6 6.5
Hotels and restaurants 13.6 8.4 19.4 6.1
Transport, storage and communication 14.8 16.4 13.2 10.0
Financial intermediation 15.8 33.4 34.7 11.1
Business services 20.4 30.6 32.5 8.6
Public administration and defence 30.2 53.6 47.4 24.5
Education 19.5 33.6 36.2 15.0
Health 22.8 32.5 36.5 12.4
Other services 18.4 22.6 26.8 9.2
Total 15.3 19.3 22.9 7.3
Size of enterprise (number of employees)        
3–49 employees 14.0 17.3 21.6 7.0
50–249 employees 36.1 50.5 42.5 9.8
250 employees 40.2 59.1 47.2 21.3
Total 15.3 19.3 22.9 7.3

Note: Figures show the proportion of enterprises citing their preferred means as a percentage of all enterprises.

Source: CSO, 2009

On-the-job training also proved to be the most popular means of tacking the skills gap among clerical, sales and service employees, with 25.9% of enterprises citing this option (Table 11). The use of training courses was also a popular option (14%), particularly among the largest enterprises (47.4%) to a greater extent than the smallest enterprises (12.4%).

Table 11: Enterprises’ preferred means of addressing skills gap among clerical, sales and services employees (%)
NACE sector Hiring experienced staff Training courses On-the-job training Self-directed learning
Manufacturing, mining and quarrying, electricity, gas and water supply 10.9 18.8 26.1 5.2
Construction 5.7 7.7 9.0 1.6
Wholesale and retail 14.5 16.6 37.2 5.6
Hotels and restaurants 14.9 6.0 28.2 1.5
Transport, storage and communication 14.7 13.5 16.2 9.6
Financial intermediation 16.1 30.8 47.5 8.0
Business services 9.6 14.9 21.7 4.1
Public administration and defence 25.0 50.0 49.5 20.3
Education 9.2 18.1 18.7 7.8
Health 13.9 20.0 34.1 5.5
Other services 12.1 17.1 29.1 3.6
Total 11.6 14.0 25.9 4.2
Size of enterprise (number of employees)        
3–49 employees 10.9 12.4 24.5 4.0
50–249 employees 23.4 38.9 48.5 6.4
250 employees 29.3 47.4 46.5 12.8
Total 11.6 14.0 25.9 4.2

Note: Figures show the proportion of enterprises citing their preferred means as a percentage of all enterprises.

Source: CSO, 2009

In relation to production, transport, craft and other manual employees, on-the-job training was once again the most preferred means of tackling the skills shortage, with 18.7% of enterprises citing this option (Table 12). The hiring of experienced staff was also a popular method for this occupational group (8.2%), although it should be noted that the percentages for all preferred means were relatively lower for this group compared with the other occupational categories.

Table 12: Enterprises’ preferred means of addressing skills gap among production, transport, craft and other manual employees (%)
NACE sector Hiring experienced staff Training courses On-the-job training Self-directed learning
Manufacturing, mining and quarrying, electricity, gas and water supply 11.7 18.9 38.1 5.0
Construction 11.7 10.8 30.7 5.4
Wholesale and retail 5.8 5.6 13.3 2.2
Hotels and restaurants 11.5 4.9 23.7 2.9
Transport, storage and communication 16.8 6.4 14.4 6.4
Financial intermediation 0.2 1.4 2.2 1.0
Business services 3.1 2.8 8 1.9
Public administration and defence 13.5 24.5 29.7 14.1
Education 5.3 3.9 3.1 1.2
Health 4.2 8.2 11.8 1.6
Other services 9.9 9.5 16.4 1.5
Total 8.2 7.4 18.7 3.1
Size of enterprise (number of employees)        
3–49 employees 7.7 6.3 17.9 3.0
50–249 employees 15.0 23.9 32.9 4.5
250 employees 16.1 28.9 35.5 7.3
Total 8.2 7.4 18.7 3.1

Note: Figures show the proportion of enterprises citing their preferred means as a percentage of all enterprises.

Source: CSO, 2009

Overall, self-directed learning is a much less common means of tacking skills gaps among all occupational groupings, and among the three categories it was highest for the management and professional grades at 7.3% (Table 10).

In terms of company size, larger enterprises were much more likely to use all of the various methods to address skills gaps than small enterprises, and this applied across all of the occupational groups (Tables 10–12). Regarding the different economic sectors, public administration and defence had a high incidence of all of the various methods of addressing skills gaps, and this was generally the case across the three occupational categories.



Employee methods of acquiring skills

As part of the survey, employees were asked how they acquired their skills for their current job. In response, 48% stated that they acquired their skills through on-the-job training (Table 13). A further 41.9% reported that they were hired as an experienced worker who had already acquired sufficient skills, while just under a quarter (24.5%) stated that they had attended training courses in relation to acquiring skills in their current job. An additional 16.1% of employees reported using self-directed learning. There was little difference between employees in enterprises of different sizes, except in relation to the fact that a significantly higher proportion of employees (30.2%) in large enterprises had acquired at least some skills through training courses compared with the corresponding proportion of employees in small enterprises (15.6%).

Table 13: Employee methods of acquiring skills in current job (%)
NACE sector Hired as experienced worker Training courses On-the-job training Self-directed learning
Manufacturing, mining and quarrying, electricity, gas and water supply 38.1 29.3 57.6 14.8
Construction 42.1 20.3 39.4 12.5
Wholesale and retail 38.4 17.8 48.7 12.5
Hotels and restaurants 46.0 13.4 43.0 10.4
Transport, storage and communication 32.0 36.5 53.8 14.3
Financial intermediation 32.2 43.9 69.7 25.9
Business services 46.5 26.2 46.3 18.9
Public administration and defence 23.3 40.7 66.2 21.3
Education 68.0 11.5 17.7 19.6
Health 50.3 21.6 39.8 19.5
Other services 40.8 22.8 47.7 14.4
Total 41.9 24.5 48.0 16.1
Size of enterprises (number of employees)        
3–49 employees 42.6 15.6 41.1 14.2
50–249 employees 44.1 25.5 49.9 15.4
250 employees 40.7 30.2 52.1 17.8
Total 41.9 24.5 48.0 16.1

Note: Figures show the proportion of employees citing methods of acquiring skills as a percentage of all employees.

Source: CSO, 2009



Methodology

As mentioned, the data outlined in this report was collected as part of the NES, conducted in October 2006. The NES is a major workplace survey conducted by Ireland’s CSO. The purpose of the survey is to provide more detailed structural information on workplace issues, including skills and training, earnings and factors influencing earnings. The NES is carried out annually and has been designed as an integrated survey that addresses issues of national interest. The data presented in this specific national survey data report relates to continuing vocational training (CVT) and job skills.

The data was collected by the CSO in accordance with the European Communities (Statistics) (National Employment Survey) Regulations 2007 and Statistics (National Employment Survey) Order 2007. Prior to the launch of the survey, the CSO consulted with various interest organisations and fine-tuned the questions after conducting a pilot survey in late 2006.

A sample of employers was selected initially and then, in a second stage, a sample of employees was selected from within the chosen enterprises. Employers facilitated this approach by selecting a systematic sample of employees from their payrolls, based on the number of employees in October 2006, and forwarding the selection to the CSO. This two-stage strategy was used for practical purposes to optimise the quality of the information collected.

The NES sample of employers was selected from the CSO Central Business Register (CBR). An enterprise is defined as the smallest legally independent unit. The NACE code of each enterprise included in the survey was determined from the predominant activity of the enterprise, based on information provided in this or other CSO inquiries. The size class of each enterprise was determined by the number of employees and therefore excluded other persons engaged in work – such as people who worked for the enterprise but were not paid a definite wage or salary.

The employer sample was selected based on the proportion of companies in each economic sector and size class cell. The sample was also checked to make sure that there were at least five employers in each cell; if there were less than five employers in a cell, then all were included in the sample. Only employers with more than three employees were surveyed and the data was collected at enterprise level. Employers were required to have been trading in the reference month of October 2006.

No imputation was carried out in relation to unit non-response – that is, the weighting of the survey results allowed for the inclusion of these enterprises in the final results. Item non-response – that is, non-respondent questions in a particular return – was dealt with by imputing values based on a weighted average of the relevant respondents. However, item non-response was very small.

There were 8,383 relevant enterprises in the NES October 2006 survey, of which 4,209 responded – therefore, constituting a response rate of 50.2%. There was an effective sample of 68,427 employees, of whom 51,252 responded – thus, representing a response rate of almost 75%. After the fieldwork for the survey was completed, the respondent enterprises were then weighted up to the full register of 61,200 enterprises and 1,626,000 employees. The survey results relate to all enterprises with three or more employees in 2006. Information was collected separately for nine occupation groups, but these were grouped together for publication purposes. The three groups are as follows: managers, administrators, professionals and associate professionals; clerical, sales and service workers; production, transport, craft and tradespersons, and other manual workers. A brief employee questionnaire was circulated in paper format to each employee.

The survey is conducted by post. However, all organisations are encouraged to make electronic returns to reduce their burden. All large organisations do make electronic returns and a significant percentage of the smaller ones make electronic returns. The employee questionnaires are posted out with a stamped addressed envelope to ensure confidentiality of their returns, as they may not wish their employer to know certain personal details..



Commentary

This comprehensive training and skills survey by the CSO is a welcome addition to research on working conditions in Ireland. The survey clearly illustrates that significant differences are evident in training and skills development between small and large enterprises, and across different sectors.

Clearly, more work needs to be done in Ireland to enhance training and skills development – particularly in certain sectors. This is a vital policy issue. There is consensus among the government and social partners in Ireland – as encapsulated in national social partnership agreements – that improvements in the area of lifelong learning and training opportunities for all, especially for those with lower skills, are vital in order to enhance the Irish economy’s progress along a high value-added knowledge trajectory. In this context, upskilling has been framed as vital to boost Ireland’s competitiveness. However, it seems clear that any major improvement in upskilling of low-skilled employees would require that the government adopts a more interventionist and statutory role in training policy – along the lines of certain other European countries. Vocational training has not yet acquired the status of an individual statutory right in Ireland – for instance, through provisions for statutory leave periods for further training and education. Take-up of vocational training is still voluntarist – in other words, negotiated between employers and employees and/or their representatives. Furthermore, government and employer funding dedicated specifically to training and upskilling remains quite low, although there were some signs – until the onset of Ireland’s serious recession – that training was attracting more targeted attention and resourcing, albeit from a low base. Nonetheless, investment in training might be expected to be one of the casualties of a deep recession.

If Ireland is to move further towards becoming a knowledge economy, the existing ‘opportunities divide’ needs to be tackled in the workplace and society. For instance, inequalities exist in access to opportunities for training between high and low-skilled workers, between older and younger workers, and between men and women. To a large extent, these inequalities reflect societal inequalities and the fact that two different economies are operating side by side: the growth of highly-skilled knowledge work has coincided with the parallel growth of the low-paid service sector and contract jobs. In this context, the CSO training and skills survey findings could be extremely useful for guiding those with responsibility for national skills policy in identifying areas where skills gaps are most acute in relation to particular occupations and sectors. The CSO survey identifies deficiencies in management skills as one crucial policy area that clearly needs to be tackled if Ireland is to realise its policy goal of becoming a competitive knowledge economy.

Tony Dobbins, National University of Ireland (NUI) Galway


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