Skillnets hosted an interesting panel discussion on workforce development whilst launching four new Skillnets learning networks in the medtech, design, hospitality, and freight and logistics sectors. Skillnets exists in the context of national policy and therefore all our activities are aligned to national policy, particularly in relation to the Action Plan for Education and the National Skills Strategy. Each of the four new sectors launched feature prominently in Government strategies and indeed three of the sectors were the subject of recent reports undertaken by the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN), with a report on the design sector pending.

A common theme across the Expert Group reports is the stored-up growth potential that exists within these sectors and the capacity to deliver significant levels of new jobs, based on a strong supply of the right skills and talent. Therefore, it is particularly pleasing for us to be able to facilitate that direct connection between national policy and enterprise-led action on the ground. Speaking at the launch, Minister for Education and Skills Richard Bruton TD said the new networks were “closely aligned with labour market policy and will facilitate the strengthening of the skills base in these sectors.”

Speaking at the event Brendan McGinty, Skillnets Chairman said: “Investment at enterprise level in the skills of employees can help businesses to remain competitive, and can create significant additional value such as improved productivity and increased employee engagement. Our model is embedded in enterprise and we are flexible in our approach to enterprise-led training. We can move quickly to address skill needs across Irish businesses and respond to these ever-changing demands. We are delighted to launch these four new networks and would encourage other groups to engage with Skillnets.”

At the launch Denise O’Connor, Managing Director of Optimise Design, explained “Design Enterprise Skillnet aims to support the skills base in the design business sector, especially in growth areas such as user experience (UX), digital design and service design, to strengthen competitiveness in a very dynamic marketplace. Ongoing up-skilling is a requirement for design businesses to scale and export.” Design Enterprise Skillnet, promoted by the Institute of Designers in Ireland plans to meet the demand for new skills in the design business sector, with a focus on growth areas in both design-intensive and non-design-intensive sectors.

The new Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) Skillnet, promoted by Irish MedTech Association at Ibec, will tackle the skills needs arising from the convergence of medical technologies, pharmaceuticals, information technology and software within the new field of connected health, as well as recommendations from the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs report on the bio-pharma industry published in 2016. According to Dr. Áine Fox, Senior Executive of Irish MedTech Association at IBEC and IOMT Skillnet Promoter: “Revolutionary changes in the commercial model used by healthcare systems globally through the move to value-based healthcare – means Ireland needs to develop a world class medtech hub to maximise emerging job opportunities. For this to happen the right skills are critical.”

Restaurant and Hospitality Skillnet, promoted by the Restaurants Association of Ireland, will support restaurants and catering companies to help drive employment growth, talent attraction and retention in the hospitality sector, with a focus on career progression for those at lower-skilled levels to help fill anticipated job openings and increase retention levels within the sector.

CILT Skillnet, promoted by the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport seeks to grow the skill base in the international trade and domestic freight transportation sectors.  CILT Skillnet will deliver managerial and technical up-skilling in supply chain management, optimising vehicle utilisation and finance for transport operators.

Paul Healy, Skillnets Chief Executive, outlined that Skillnets have a track record in developing innovative learning networks and currently support over 60 groups of private enterprises, particularly SMEs, in sectors and regions across the country. “With the Irish economy now in a growth phase, an increasing number of businesses are looking to expand. There is a growing demand among businesses for innovative solutions to address skills shortages in the workplace. Skillnets is pleased to announce another new fund for training networks, so that more businesses that want to grow can be supported with workforce development in 2017.”