A new architecture is emerging in FET (SOLAS, ETBs, QQI etc) – and there is an opportunity to influence the overall development of the sector within that architecture and position DCU within that emerging scenario to be the key knowledge base for the sector (linking the worlds of learning, enterprise and employment). The FET sector has grown organically – Youthreach is/has been the only "planned" and led initiative – and it is vital to develop a knowledge base. FET includes but is not exclusive to vocational training and apprenticeship, VET (Vocational Education & Training), the PLC Sector, alternative basic skills programmes such as Youthreach, Community Training Workshops, Traveller Education, Adult Literacy, Adult and Continuing Education and Community Education.
The contribution from HE to the future skills agenda is well established (higher level skills and qualifications, etc). However, the Irish economy has a significant shortfall in intermediate skills. There will be a major focus on intermediate (skilled technician) level but with a new fluidity – all employees will be expected to be open to continuous training. As SOLAS refines its analysis of the skill needs it will be commissioning ETBs and others to undertake programmes and initiatives to address these skills needs/deficits. This means that the sector will be more focused and less intuitive than heretofore, more planned and less organic. Decisions and programme designs will have to be based on the best evidence – a blend of empirical data (mainly from the SLMRU in FAS/SOLAS, as now) and research into best existing and emerging best practice in Ireland, the EU and OECD countries. All programmes will be expected to raise and/or broaden participants' skill levels and to encourage and promote ongoing engagement with learning and progress through and across the NFQ. In parallel, other programmes (for example the Adult Literacy Service and Community Education) will continue.
FETRC includes past, present and future research in this sector and is an active agent in building research capacity in this area. The experienced staff within the Centre are heavily involved in research fundraising, proposals and research networks in Ireland, Europe and worldwide. FETRC houses dozens of research theses and dissertations all related to the FET sector. Current research activities and listings of postgraduate research activities in the area can be found within this site.