Fresh Skillnet Ireland research highlights importance of digital and sustainability upskilling of workforce

New research from Skillnet Ireland has revealed that over 60% of businesses in Ireland stated their workforce will need upskilling in the areas of digitalisation and sustainability, to navigate complex modern challenges and remain competitive.

In this the EU Year of Skills, Skillnet Ireland commissioned the study, authored by Ipsos Behaviour & Attitudes, which reveals valuable insights into the current and future skills needs of businesses. Ireland’s Talent Landscape 2024 details the findings of a nationally representative survey of 500 business leaders from businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions in Ireland.

According to the study, 65% of businesses stated that staff would require training for the digital transition, while 59% indicated that employees would benefit from upskilling in the areas of climate action and sustainability. Businesses also consider energy efficiency to be important, with 64% highlighting its potential to facilitate growth in the next two to three years.

“We are listening to businesses all the time to identify skills gaps and provide solutions that support firms in boosting their competitiveness. Our aim is to help Irish businesses stay ahead of the curve. We know from this research study and from our work with the almost 25,000 businesses we engage with through our 70 Business Networks, that the business sector will continue to face significant levels of disruption as the digital and climate transitions continue apace. Maintaining a strong talent pipeline is key in tackling these changes," Paul Healy, Chief Executive, Skillnet Ireland, said.

The report revealed that 49% of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs ) and 94% of large companies are confident about the future with almost half of them viewing their economic outlook as ‘very strong’. SMEs recognise the importance of lifelong learning, with the majority having upskilled their staff within the past 12 months. However, 51% reported difficulties in recruiting staff with the necessary skillset. Cyber security, financial management, and marketing and sales were identified as the much-needed skills for SME business growth.

The key upskilling requirements highlighted by large businesses included robotic process automation (54% ), cloud computing (47% ), artificial intelligence (42% ), marketing (70% ) and sustainable supply chain management (69% ). These businesses are encountering persistent challenges when it comes to attracting new talent, with two thirds struggling to hire employees with the appropriate skillset.

The study found that 35% of all businesses regard climate action and sustainability as a very important skills area in terms of growing their business in the next two to three years. Aligned to this recognition, however, is a clear skills shortage of green talent. One in five businesses surveyed stated experiencing difficulties in sourcing climate action and sustainability skills, with almost two thirds stating that their staff will require upskilling in climate action and sustainability for their future success.

Established 25 years ago this year, Skillnet Ireland engages directly with businesses to meet their talent development needs, through industry-led programmes and supports which are tailored specifically to what businesses want and are driven by market need. Each year, Skillnet Ireland delivers upskilling supports to over 24,700 businesses and more than 92,400 trainees.

The findings in this report will inform Skillnet Ireland's strategic commitment to meet the talent requirements of an increasingly digital future, foster the growth of a low-carbon and sustainable economy, enhance SME enterprise leadership, and bolster Foreign Direct Investment (FDI ) through a focus on talent development.

Skillnet Ireland encourages businesses of all sizes and sectors across the economy to avail of the range of Skillnet Ireland talent development and upskilling supports available through the 70 Skillnet Business Networks and its national initiatives, Skillnet Climate Ready Academy, Skillnet Innovation Exchange and MentorsWork.


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