Recruitment firms are struggling to fill vacancies in certain sectors as Ireland continues to experience a strengthening labour market, according to the National Skills Bulletin published by Solas, the further education and training authority.

Andrew Brownlee, Executive Director of Solas, said the National Skills Bulletin is a report that provides a comprehensive understanding of how the labour market is evolving, and the key areas of growth and opportunity. Its findings show that the education and training system needs to focus on meeting Ireland's critical skills needs.

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Employment growth of 60,000 brought the total number of people employed in Ireland to 2.19 million. "We saw really strong increases in the construction sector, hospitality sector and in education. These are really positive signs but there are also areas of some concern. Skills shortages have been identified in areas like ICT, science, engineering, construction, business and financial services and health," Mr Brownlee said. 

Approximately 9,400 employment permits were issued last year, up 22% on the previous year. The permits were issued to people working in IT and health, where skills are needed. "I think it's important that we don't under-estimate the importance of migrant labour in supporting the growth of employment and the growth of skills in the economy," Mr Brownlee said. 

"They play a critical role in helping us meet those skills needs while we get our education and training provision right so that we can continue to respond to the emerging needs," he added. 

The National Skills Bulletin found a potential, additional labour force of 110,000. Mr Brownlee explained that these potential workers are people who are available for work but are not seeking work, or seeking work but not immediately available.

"That really chimes with what we are doing in the further education and training sector because we work with over 300,000 people in Ireland, getting people into education for the first time, giving them a taster and getting them on a pathway to more formal education, and hopefully ultimately into further employment."

He said Solas is evolving its methods of provision including new traineeships, new apprenticeships, and post-Leaving Cert provision, to make it more focused on employment opportunities.