Government of Ireland
Regional Skills

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Minister Halligan launches innovative upskilling initiative

7 June 2018 


EXPLORE Programme aims to increase Lifelong Learning rates, provide new opportunities for existing workforce


Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development John Halligan T.D., today launched the EXPLORE programme, an innovative new initiative aimed at increasing participation rates in Lifelong Learning and offering an opportunity to upskill for those already in employment.


The key objective of the initiative is to create a potential new solution to help address the issue of Ireland’s low level of participation in lifelong learning amongst the Irish workforce, particularly targeting persons over 35 years of age in manufacturing employment. It seeks to:  

  • address the lack of digital skills in this cohort;
  • provide a novel approach to overcome barriers to participation in lifelong learning;
  • address the key issue of skills obsolescence which is a significant concern for employers; 
  • showcase the benefits of collaboration between local Education & Training providers and industry. 


The Education and Training Boards in each region are collaborating with employers and the network of nine Regional Skills Forum Managers to deliver this programme, using innovative methods outside of the traditional classroom in order to focus on non-formal learning. The project will provide learning opportunities to those in employment who are currently not engaged with the formal education and training system or existing upskilling programmes.  

The EXPLORE programme will be piloted initially in the South East and Midlands regions and will be rolled out nationwide later in the year.


Minister Halligan welcomed the initiative saying:


“This innovative new programme focusing on the over 35s who have not previously engaged with Lifelong Learning is based on the evidence both internationally, nationally and regionally and in light of the recent National Skills Council decision to prioritise Lifelong Learning for 2018. The EXPLORE programme, with its novel approach, has the potential to become a significant new offering in the education and training space.”


The Manager of the South East Regional Skills Forum, Edmond Connolly said:


“This is a wonderful opportunity for manufacturing companies to support experienced staff to keep pace with technological change and engage with life-long learning. The initiative will be delivered by Education & Training Boards around the country with the support of the Regional Skills Fora. The Regional Skills Fora Managers have contributed to the development of this initiative based upon their experience over the past two years. I am delighted that the initiative will be piloted initially in the South East in conjunction with Kilkenny & Carlow ETB.”