€2m funding will help Irish businesses to build and maintain a talented workforce
For companies to sustain and boost their competitiveness, providing upskilling, training and development for employees is imperative. Skillnet Ireland announced that €2m funding will be available to industry bodies and enterprise groups to develop new Skillnet networks. These networks will enable companies to be ‘future proofed’ to meet new skills challenges.
To meet the challenges and navigate the global megatrends Irish businesses are faced with, national agency Skillnet Ireland champions innovation in lifelong learning. This is to ensure that Irish workers have the skills for the future.
Paul Healy, Chief Executive of Skillnet Ireland, says: “Ireland is a small open economy. However, we are vulnerable to global megatrends. One such megatrend is the impact of technology, particularly automation, artificial intelligence and the pervasive nature of tech in the workplace today. Others include demographic changes, and major geopolitical shifts which are going to be disruptive for our economy, such as Brexit. Because of these factors, businesses require ongoing reskilling and upskilling to remain competitive."
Healy continues, “Small business owners need to look at their own development and training. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has identified that the low uptake of lifelong learning and management development amongst small firms is one cause of an ever-widening productivity gap between SMEs and multinationals based here.”
To counteract this, Healy encourages small businesses to “get involved in lifelong learning and have an upskilling strategy for their business, by engaging with one of our 60+ enterprise-led Skillnet Learning Networks”.
Funding for new Skillnet networks
Skillnet Ireland have announced €2m worth of additional funding, to support Irish businesses in establishing new Skillnet Learning Networks to address their sector or region’s current and future skills needs. Paul Healy says this will be particularly significant for SMEs. A Skillnet Learning Network is a collection of private sector businesses which collaborate to address needs within their sector. Today, there are over 60 Skillnet Networks in Ireland, which support approximately 15,000 companies.
“Businesses can talk to an existing Skillnet Network and join that network,” says Healy. “Or if a relevant network doesn’t exist, they can apply to establish one network through their industry federation, industry body or enterprise group.” Healy explains the enterprise group or industry body that is applying must meet the following criteria: they must have “clearly identified and established a skilling need for their sector”.
They must also show that there is “a strong momentum from the employers within the sector or region to establish a Skillnet Network and make it sustainable over the years”.
“Our focus is on upskilling those who are in employment and we need to ensure that the workforce has the skills required to remain competitive. Upskilling leads to greater career mobility and enhanced prospects in career and life outcomes.”
And, Healy says the benefit of remaining competitive through upskilling and development training for staff is not the only advantage to becoming part of a Skillnet Network.
“There is also the fact that there is a facility there to work with other companies and your peers – you become part of a network. Secondly, the training is subsidised by the State, which is a huge advantage. Our networks offer a flexible approach to suit various business needs. Whilst we work with enterprises to source and part-fund training partners to provide relevant upskilling, it is enterprise that decides exactly what training they want and runs it themselves. Employers have that chance to influence and control the process, so it is highly relevant and responsive.”
Upskilling success stories
With many of the current Skillnet Networks established for as long as almost 20 years, the success rate is exemplary.
Stephen Hickey, of Glanbia Agribusiness group, says: “Our business finds that ICOS Skillnet membership is a crucial support for the development and delivery of our learning and development year-on-year. Their support in the development of relevant courses has been hugely beneficial via access to industry working groups, and in accessing the best trainers available. This helps shape the training to best meet our business needs and has added real value.”
James Trindle, of security software company McAfee, adds: “The partnership with IT@Cork Skillnet has been critical to progress made over the last number of years. They have been able to help us source the highest quality training from the most reputable providers, at significantly reduced prices. The network model facilitates strong engagement and interaction between member companies and we look forward to continuing our collaboration.”
According to Healy: “Sustaining and improving our national competitiveness through upskilling and lifelong learning goes to the heart of what Skillnet Ireland does. As advocates for workforce development, Skillnet Ireland will, in conjunction with our enterprise partners, continue to increase our engagement with SMEs. We will aim to play a key role in supplying skills to the Irish workforce by developing new and innovative programmes.” Healy adds, “We are ambitious for Irish enterprise. We know that one of the routes to success is through developing the workforce. The key to surviving and thriving in the modern business environment is to invest in the resilience, adaptability and skills of the workforce.”
The fund will closed for applications on Thursday, 8 November, 2018. If your industry federation, industry body or other private sector enterprise group are interested in establishing a new Skillnet Learning Network, contact Skillnet Ireland at (01) 207 9630, email email@example.com or visit www.skillnetireland.ie/funding for more details.