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Skills in the Spotlight for Irish Companies

Helen McMahon, senior executive for client skills at Enterprise Ireland, describes what Irish companies can gain from focusing on the critical skills required for growth.

With national and international competition for talent heating up, it is becoming increasingly difficult for Irish companies to attract and retain talent, across all functions of their business. Most Irish companies know that their performance and growth could benefit dramatically from access to a skilled workforce.

Many find it more difficult to define the critical skills they need to align with their strategic priorities. Companies can also find it challenging to assess which specific skills could have the greatest impact on the immediate and long-term growth of the business.

Enterprise Ireland has partnered with the Irish Management Institute (IMI) to deliver Spotlight on Skills, a series of one-day workshops that are run regionally and designed to help ensure that each company’s workforce has the capabilities required to support export growth and long-term strategic development.

Spotlight on Skills is supported by the Department of Education and Skills and is designed to help companies to get a response to their needs from national and regional education and training providers.

To date 76 companies, employing 10,012 people, have taken part in the workshops. Outcomes are both immediate and long-term, with the focus falling on identifying critical gaps across the whole company.

Kevin Clarke, General Manager at Green Isle Foods, describes the benefits of the programme for firms. “Our company’s growth and development is clearly impacted by our access to a skilled workforce,” he said. “The Spotlight on Skills workshop supported us to strategically explore the critical skills we need now and into the future for business growth. It helped us to define the actions we need to put in place for staff-resource planning into the future.”

Roisin Johnson, Head of HR at Ammeon, described the programme as “a practical workshop that provided a toolkit of techniques to help us identify our training needs and support the achievement of our strategic goals by building our company and our people’s capabilities. Spotlight on Skills is a straightforward framework that can be brought back into any workplace and used over and over again. We highly recommend the workshop to Irish companies.”

Spotlight on Skills also helps participants to think strategically about how they can attract and retain talent and develop career pathways for existing employees. Opportunities to upskill and reskill an existing workforce are highlighted and actions that can help to attract the talent needed to drive growth are identified. If a company is suffering from the loss of skilled staff who are departing for rival firms for career reasons, developing avenues for progression within the company can be impactful. Creating opportunities for staff to progress their career within the company can also be attractive to new talent.

Embracing opportunities to upskill and reskill existing employees can reduce the time required to onboard new talent to address shortages. The company report developed through Spotlight on Skills may indicate that existing employees could benefit from mentorship, coaching or other development opportunities. Companies are advised about programmes that can help meet skills needs quickly and get an opportunity to influence the development of new programmes to develop a skills pipeline.

In the longer term, Spotlight on Skills will help to bridge the gap between the priorities of Irish enterprise and the curricula of education and training providers. After a company has developed its report, the Spotlight on Skills team can facilitate contact with regional skills managers working for the DES who can help them to engage with education and training providers in their region.

The programme gives companies a strong voice on their needs. As a significant volume of critical skill needs is identified, providers can be encouraged to update their curricula, create programmes and develop additional apprenticeships or more learning opportunities.

This article was originally published in the Sunday Independent.

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