The Centre for Cross Border Studies provided support at a Sectoral Dialogue event on Enterprise Skills Needs and Brexit, hosted by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and the Department of Education and Skills on 3 July at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise and Innovation, Frances Fitzgerald TD opened the proceedings, noting that the Sectoral Dialogues provide an opportunity to hear the voices of people likely to be affected by the UK’s exit, both directly and through representative groups. The fact that the two departments were jointly hosting the event was a reflection of the cross-cutting nature of Brexit’s impacts and a demonstration of the whole-of-government response being adopted. Ms Fitzgerald went on to provide an overview of developments in the Brexit process at the beginning of the substantive negotiations and warned of the damage to Ireland should there be a disorderly withdrawal process. She then reminded participants of Ireland’s priorities:
- Minimising the impact of Brexit on trade and the economy;
- Protecting the Northern Ireland Peace Process;
- Maintaining the Common Travel Area; and
- Influencing the future development of the European Union.
Noting that acknowledgement of Ireland’s unique circumstances by both the EU and the UK has been the result of a major Government campaign of engagement, the Tánaiste warned, “There is no single Brexit response – there is no magic bullet”. Focusing on the skills issue in the context of Brexit, she noted that there was a need to address changing employment and trading patterns that could be expected following Brexit and the availability of qualified people with the right skills.
Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton TD developed the theme of skills gaps
A presentation by Mark Keese, Head of the Skills and Employability Division, Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs of OECD, set out the wider context of mega-trends changing work and skill needs and related labour market challenges. He then followed with an analysis of the implications of Brexit for trade and employment in Ireland and the increasing risk of emerging skills gaps compounding existing skills shortages and imbalances.
The participants then broke into small groups to discuss the sectors most impacted from a skills perspective and possible interventions to mitigate those impacts, with CCBS staff acting as rapporteurs. Following the breakout session, CCBS Director Ruth Taillon summarised some of the key discussion points. The final part of the workshop was a series of short presentations by expert speakers, including Fergal O’Brien, IBEC; Dr Peter Rigney, ICTU; Paul O’Toole, SOLAS; and Dr Vivienne Patterson Irvine, HEA.