"Sourcing the right talent is a challenge. Our Skillnet helps us develop the highly skilled workforce we need."
Peter O'Kane, Engineering Manager, Realtime Technologies
The Challenge – Raising the skill levels of staff in the space industry
Realtime Technologies is at the forefront of the Electronic Manufacturing Services industry in Europe. It primarily serves the space and aerospace industry, but also has clients in the medical, defence, and telecoms sectors. Founded in 1996, Realtime Technologies is headquartered at the heart of Ireland’s electronics manufacturing hub in North Dublin and have state of the art facilities in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Solving manufacturing problems in the space industry requires a highly trained, experienced, and quality-conscious team, as well as leading-edge technologies. The primary challenge facing Realtime Technologies was to source new and innovative upskilling specific to the sector for their talent base, so that they could compete on an international level.
The Solution – Building a skill base capable of delivering cutting-edge space technologies
Space Industry Skillnet is a Skillnet Business Network for Irish companies involved in the delivery of technology and services to the global space market, including the European Space Agency.
Diarmuid Corry, the Chief Technical Officer of Réaltra Space Systems Engineering, the design division within Realtime Technologies, spoke of the challenges posed by the fact that Ireland has not witnessed the expansion of an indigenous space sector historically.
“I think it would be very difficult for a company like Réaltra to exist without Space Industry Skillnet, primarily because there hasn’t been a history of space industry within Ireland. There isn’t a core set of competencies that we can recruit from to get our staff”, said Diarmuid.
As Danny Gleeson, Promoter of the Space Industry Skillnet and Managing Director of G&L Technology Ltd., outlines: “The overall mission of the Space Industry Skillnet is to enable network members to participate fully in the space sector, to win contracts, to grow their businesses. I think it’s important for groups of like-minded companies in a sector who are finding it difficult to raise the skill levels of their staff. It’s very important that they come together, identify a common need, and enable that to be delivered through a Skillnet.”
Companies like Realtime Technologies can overcome the attraction and retention issues affecting the sector by raising the level of training and STEM education opportunities available to employees in Ireland. The Space Industry Skillnet delivers world-class training and provides companies with the talent they require because it caters to the needs of the space industry.
Engineering Manager at Realtime Technologies Peter O’Kane commented on the workforce development issues facing the company. Peter said: “It is quite a challenge to attract and to retain people in this industry. What will attract people towards Realtime and Réaltra is the level of training they will receive here.”
Upskilling programmes aim to achieve ‘people-excellence’ by responding to the specific requirements of its members. Programmes can be delivered through a network locally and at every level of an organisation, covering areas such as quality assurance in the space industry, space reliability engineering, space payload safety and programme management.
Another objective of the Space Industry Skillnet is to encourage and enable more Irish companies to consider the space industry as a truly commercial opportunity and to provide them with the skills to grow their business and succeed in a fast-changing industry.
The Outcome – Winning more business and growing the space sector
Through upskilling, companies like Realtime Technologies were able to put themselves in a position to win new business. In 2019, Realtime Technologies were awarded a €3.4 million contract – the largest ever given to an Irish company for a European Space Agency Science mission – by German space company OHB System AG to design, develop and deliver the PayLoad Interface Unit (PLIU) for the PLATO mission due to launch in 2026.
Commenting on the PLATO mission contract, Danny Gleeson said: “For a small Irish SME, it was a huge success story and we’re very happy to be a part of that.”
Diarmuid Corry said: “I would absolutely recommend other companies to join Space Industry Skillnet. It’s a very flexible organisation. They listen to us. We tell them these are the kind of things we need to train our people on, and they will go out and find the trainers and build the courses around our needs. It’s very easy to communicate with them and it’s very easy to work together to develop exactly what the industry needs.”
Engineering Manager for Realtime Technologies, Peter O’Kane, praised the impact that the Space Industry Skillnet has had on Realtime Technologies in terms of talent development. He said: “Realtime Technologies has, through Space Industry Skillnet accessed relevant, quality training at a reduced cost with flexibility to fit with our schedule. Through improved company and employee knowledge, attitude, competency, and networking, we are already seeing efficiencies, techniques, and opportunities which enable us to put ourselves in a position to win more business.”