Navigating the Future: Insights from Unleashing Talent For the Future Conference 2023

Attending Innopharma Education’s Unleashing Talent for the Future Dublin Skills Conference at the College Green Hotel (Nov 22nd, 2023) provided a practical exploration into the skills challenges and opportunities of the Irish workforce. The conference aligned with the European Year of Skills 2023,  featuring panels on Reinventing, Leading, and Supporting, offered valuable perspectives for industry & academia seeking to address workforce talent planning issues. The MC for the day was Jonathan McCrea, a TV and radio broadcaster and founder of Whipsmart Media, a communications consultancy.

Digital Skills and the Opening Address

The event began with Orla Callan (Managing Director, Innopharma Education) discussing industry’s digital skills’ gaps and the potential for upskilling to drive growth. Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail Neale Richmond, followed with his opening address emphasising Ireland's skilled workforce, attributing it to a strong education and training foundation. He acknowledged the collaborative efforts between industry, educators, and the state, highlighting returns on investment.

Panel Discussions Overview

Panel 1: Reinventing the Future

Area of focus: The future of industry and the policies shaping/supporting them and the skills to get there.

The first panel highlighted the skills needed for the future: data and analytics, automation, resilience, critical thinking, and adaptability. The call for closer collaboration between industry and academia in designing relevant courses was clear. The consensus favoured skills over college transcripts, emphasizing the need for aligning industry strategy with skills development and hiring.

Panel 2: Leading the Charge

Area of focus: Creating a skills development plan to match business goals

The second panel focused on leadership in the face of digital skills gaps. The key takeaway for me was the importance of effective implementation following strategic planning. An alarming 88% of organizations expect digital skills gaps in 2024, underlining the urgency for proactive planning and execution.

Panel 3: Supporting the Workforce

Area of focus: Sharing best practices to increase participation in industry training by addressing individual & workplace barriers.

The final panel delved into the relationship between employers and employees in the upskilling journey. It highlighted the willingness of employees to reskill if given the time and space from employers and acknowledge the challenges they face which include family or caregiving obligations. The discussion also covered the non-linear nature of career paths and the benefits of a 4-day work week in supporting staff well-being.

Keynote Workshop: Future of Work and Leadership

The afternoon workshop by Lars Sudmann offered practical insights into the future of work and leadership. Attendees walked away with a tangible skills strategy, a valuable tool for managers navigating the complexities of skill development.

Closing Thoughts: Ian Jones on Dual Transition

Innopharma founder and President Emeritus Ian Jones closed the conference by emphasizing the dual transition required for digital skills and the green economy. He highlighted the positive impact of Industry 5.0: aligning digital skills with environmental sustainability; emphasizing benefits for individuals, organizations, and economies.

He discussed how skills are Ireland's 'super-power' but the gap between skills needs and government funding is getting a time when we need it most. If we don't increase our investment in funding of skills initiatives and industry skills training, particularly up-skilling and re-skilling for a future-ready workforce, we run the risk of not digitally transforming and greening our island thereby losing our ability to compete for business on the global stage. This message was loud and clear today throughout every session.

Conference Takeaways: Navigating the Future

Reflecting on the conference, my three key takeaways were:

  1.  AI and Data Prioritization: Industries are placing a significant emphasis on AI and data, reflecting a shift toward a more tech-driven future.

  2.  Challenges in Upskilling: While industries are committed to upskilling, challenges such as high workloads and staff retention remain persistent.

  3.  Focus on Practical Learning: Short courses and micro-credentials are gaining favour over longer programs, indicating a practical shift in how skills are acquired and valued.

In conclusion, the Unleashing Talent for the Future event offered pragmatic insights for managers grappling with the complexities of strategic workforce development. The discussions underscored the importance of aligning strategies with practical implementation, acknowledging challenges, and adapting to the evolving nature of skills in the workplace. As I left the College Green Hotel, it was clear that the conference provided valuable insights for managers navigating the path toward a skilled and adaptable workforce.

Rob Farrell, Programme Director – Digital Transformation

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