Limerick: UL adapts to changing world with new lifelong learning programme

Limerick: UL adapts to changing world with new lifelong learning programme

With more than €16m in government funding, [email protected] will support the development of 19 new programmes with 2,325 student places

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27th June, 2021

University of Limerick (UL) is responding to the changing world of work, and the need for fast access to cutting-edge skills by the workforce, with a new lifelong learning programme for the digital age.

[email protected] is an industry-led education programme with a particular focus on emerging high-tech skills, such as Artificial Intelligence, Data Analytics, Intelligent Systems (Industry 4.0), Computer Vision Systems and Cognitive Robotics.

The idea behind the programme, developed by University of Limerick in partnership with employers in the Midwest and beyond, is to bring the worlds of education and work together — offering industry-relevant training for the “resilient workforce of tomorrow”.

More than €16 million in government funding has been allocated to [email protected] under the Human Capital Initiative (HCI) programme. In all, [email protected] will support the development of 19 new programmes with 2,325 new student places.

“Education relating to the needs of the workplace is nothing new for UL,” explained Martin Hayes, Professor of Digital Technologies at UL and the academic lead for the [email protected] Project.

“Since our foundation, we have been delivering blended workplace-based education to companies like Analog Devices, GM and Intel in both Shannon and Leixlip.

“UL has therefore built up significant ‘equity in the bank’ in this area already, but what has now changed, because of the pandemic, is the very nature of education and how it is delivered and accessed.

“At UL, we hope to have our students back on the campus, learning in-person, as soon as it is safe to do so, but we have also witnessed significant unexpected benefits from the large scale pivot to online third-level education that began in spring of 2020.

“Our educators have developed a huge repository of digital content and [email protected] is well-positioned on this front to offer a blended teaching format that is perfectly suited to workplace-based digital learning now and in the future.

“Even when we do return to a world in which people can learn together on a university campus, there will be those who, for many reasons, need to be able to continue their studies remotely,” Hayes said.

“Our [email protected] students may wish to study from home or from their workplace, so it is a priority for us that they have access to everything they need to succeed through access to a cohesive and coherent digital format.”

Equally important, Hayes continues, is the need to embed a “community of practice” among [email protected] students, whereby they are encouraged to work collectively to reach common goals.

“The idea is that, by socialising education through an innovative ‘Futures Portfolio’ approach, our students will be able to share knowledge and become ‘experts’ in their field of study more quickly. That expert knowledge is then filtered through to the workplace, where it can have a very real and tangible impact on enterprise and innovation,” Hayes said.

Ireland’s highly educated workforce is often cited as a crucial draw for multinationals seeking a suitable base for operations focused on markets in Europe and further afield.

And, with the ongoing push for global tax reform, the strength and skill of of the Irish workforce is likely to become more important to our economic future.

“The currency that will matter to ‘Ireland Inc’ on the international stage will be that extra edge in terms of better innovation, resilience, and graduates with industry-relevant skills relevant to some of the biggest FDI employers,” Hayes said.

“If we’re not able to close the skills gaps facing the most progressive, high-tech companies out there, we will face a problem as a country from an economic perspective.

“We have to be able to produce graduates that are industry-ready and have world class leading-edge skills.

“At its core, that is what [email protected] is about. It is about listening to employers about the skills deficits they are facing right now and putting new stackable programmes in place to address those deficits in a very immediate way, thereby enabling growth and progress.”

[email protected] programmes will be aimed at undergraduate, postgraduate and work-based learners, and will be delivered in a flexible manner, in line with the needs of both students and employers.

Programme options will include top-up degrees for non-degree holders, professional diplomas, short professional development modules and Master’s degrees. The first of the new programmes will enrol students from September.

New professional diploma programmes geared to employers’ urgent needs

University of Limerick has launched the first in a series of planned education programmes under [email protected], its new lifelong learning initiative.

The new professional diploma programmes for undergraduate, postgraduate and work-based learners are in areas where employers have highlighted an immediate need for new talent, including:

– Data Analytics;

– Intelligent Systems (Industry 4.0);

– Agile Software Development;

– Strategic Leadership;

– Digital Futures and Innovation;

– Computer Vision Systems, and;

– Cognitive Robotics.

These one-year, part-time programmes will be delivered online this year. For more, click here.

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