Galway companies are increasingly taking up opportunities for training and upskilling staff to meet business needs. Figures from the 2016 annual report of Skillnets, the national agency responsible for funding and supporting more than 60 learning networks nationwide, reveal that a total of 1,016 businesses in Galway accessed subsidised training and invested in their staff across a range of sectors last year.
Across Ireland, some 14,000 businesses invested in their staff across a range of sectors. Ninety-two percent of the member companies that benefited from investment in training through Skillnets in 2016 were SMEs.
“The development and retention of skilled talent is critical to the competitiveness and growth of the Irish economy and to the firms that underpin it,” said Skillnets chairman, Brendan McGinty. “2016 was a positive year for Skillnets, €25.9m was invested in learning and development through Skillnets networks with member companies committing €12.8m, and a co-investment from Skillnets of a further €13.1m. A growing demand for the Skillnets offering was evident with over 50,000 trainees participating across all of our programmes. A greater investment in the upskilling of our enterprise leaders and employees will be a central component of our response to the challenges within our economy, including Brexit. Skillnets is well positioned to assist with this challenge.”
Last year also saw the launch of Skillnets’ Statement of Strategy 2016–2019. The strategy contains ambitious actions designed to enable Skillnets make the optimum contribution to the national skills agenda. The strategy is also aligned with Ireland’s National Skills Strategy 2025 and Action Plan for Education 2017.
The annual report also points to some of the key challenges facing Irish industry in the year ahead. One of the aims of Ireland’s National Skills Strategy 2025 is to promote the benefits of lifelong learning among individuals, the self-employed, and employers.
Skillnets chief executive Paul Healy stressed the importance of lifelong learning across all sectors: “Embedding a culture of lifelong learning within SMEs in Ireland remains a considerable challenge that will require a deep and sustained effort. The SME sector represents over 200,000 enterprises employing 1.3 million people. To enable competitiveness and growth, employers need to engage more deeply in workforce development.”
Skillnets programmes are accessed through 63 networks, which are organised according to sector/geographical location. Skillnets played an integral role in several sectoral and regional policies in 2016 to ensure Ireland maintains a strong talent pool with the development a range of new programmes and qualifications across a range of sectors including food, bio-pharma, software, ICT and international financial services.