LISTENING TO LIAM NOONAN chatting with Matt Cooper on Irish drivetime radio reminded me of the difference between core skills and upskills in Ireland. It's a distinction made by Chris Horn who contends, "there is not so much a need to upskill, but to 'core skill'--to get back to fundamentals and thus ensure that we have a solid foundation of lifetime skills." It's something I think goes all the way back to primary school mathematics. Chris Horn believes to suceed as a knowledge economy, Ireland must ensure core intellectual skills enjoy a high priority treatment.
I agree that these are the kinds of skills required to remain competitive:
- Able to reason.
- Able to deduce and derivce.
- Capable when spotting patterns.
- Keenly inquisitive.
- Articulate and self-confident.
Schools need to teach these skills at the primary level because they form the foundation of later skillsets.
"Without these skills, we will have little to offer the 21st century global economy," writes Chris Horn. "If our young people are weak in core skills, many of them may not find well paid careers in Ireland nor overseas: these jobs will go to other nationals in other economies.
Liam Noonan explained how some of these skillsets fit into the realm of a novice software programmer. Sitting on the coal face with Liam, I know that many of the asipiring programmers have weak mathematical skills. Many do not program in second level education, so learning programming is like learning another language. Some first year students do not think logically and expect their third level education will remedy their deficiencies. Third level is often too late in the education cycle. Taking a page out of Chris Horn's blog, the primary level is where the skills start--in mathematics classrooms. Then those skills continue into second level, with an expectation that geometry, trigonometry and calculus get sound coverage. From what I see entering third level, I think there are serious core skills shortfalls in Ireland and I don't believe those shortfalls will be remedied during the current recession.
For the record, here are some of the jobs available for software developers during the week when Liam Noonan appeared on his national radio slot: