Westmeath companies encouraged to apply to €500,000 training fund

Private sector companies in Westmeath are being encouraged to apply to a new training fund, announced this week by Skillnets, the national training and upskilling body. The €500,000 fund is open for applications until April 30.

A seminar for businesses in the Midlands interested in applying for funding to Skillnets will take place on Wednesday February 27 at 5.30pm in the Tullamore Court Hotel, O’Moore Street, Tullamore. To register to attend or to find out more about the current Skillnets funding round visit www.skillnets.ie

Groups of companies must join together to form a network to apply for funding. Groups can be formed on a geographical or sectoral basis, once member companies have identified common training needs amongst their employees.

Networks hoping to receive funding under the new round must complete an online registration form by March 31 before then submitting a complete application by the April 30 deadline.

Skillnets currently funds and facilitates training through 55 networks of companies in a range of sectors and regions. Each network delivers training relevant to the needs of specific industries and member companies.

To date, Skillnets has facilitated over 60,000 Irish enterprises to upskill over 275,000 employees. In addition, the organisation has trained over 9,000 job-seekers since 2010.

Under the fund announced this week, Skillnets will make grants available to new training networks to pilot the delivery of training. Successful applicants will be required to provide matched funding of at least 50 per cent of all costs associated with training delivery.

CEO of Skillnets, Alan Nuzum, said the organisation was focusing in particular on counties in the Midlands region - including County Westmeath - for this funding round.

“We have identified a number of regions of the country where our existing networks have an insufficient presence to serve the training needs of the local economy, including the Midlands region,” he said.

“So we’ll be encouraging funding applications from counties in the Midlands in particular, and we’ll be holding an information session for businesses in the Midlands over the coming weeks to demonstrate to them the value of participating in a Skillnets training network.

“As well as this geographic focus, we are placing a specific emphasis on certain industries. We have identified a number of industries that are key to Ireland’s future economic growth, and we will be particularly welcoming of applications from training networks within those industries. These include agri-food production; ICT; life sciences; manufacturing, electronics and engineering; internationally-traded services; and the green economy.”

Under this round, funding will be provided by Skillnets for training activities from June 1 to December 31, 2013. During that period, supports will also be provided for training networks to ensure they can avail of additional funding streams in future years to secure their sustainability.

Training networks currently in operation in Westmeath include First Polymer Training Skillnet, MBE Skillnet, Space Industry Skillnet, and Taste4Success Skillnet, which focuses on the food and drinks industries.

John Purcell, employee development manager at Irish Distillers - one of the member companies of Taste4Sucess - said he would encourage all businesses in the Midlands to explore the opportunities presented by becoming involved in Skillnets.

“The funding available is crucial in enabling additional training for many companies to upskill their workforce in the face of strong international competition for projects that require high-level skills,” said Mr Purcell.

“The training programmes developed are fully industry-led, and this is one of the keys to their success: the Skillnets model allows for the creation and development of training programmes that may not have existed before and that are completely relevant to current industry needs.”


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