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Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Patrick O’Donovan TD, and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Peter Burke, TD, attended a gathering this week, at the Absolute Hotel in Limerick, to acknowledge the commitment to upskilling and lifelong learning of small to medium-sized enterprises throughout the country. Each year, over 23,000 SMEs make use of the supports provided by Skillnet Ireland, through their 70 Skillnet Business Networks and nationwide Initiatives to provide meaningful career paths to their employees and to help businesses to build competitiveness through skills.

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Patrick O’Donovan TD, said: “Skillnet Ireland’s mandate as a Government of Ireland agency under the aegis of my Department is dedicated to encouraging greater participation and engagement with enterprise training and workforce development. Skillnet Ireland’s activity levels reflect the growing appetite from businesses to maintain and invest in their staff through career development and lifelong learning. This focus on learning, and skills, not just through the traditional pathways, will ensure that Ireland’s workforce keeps pace with the best in the world”.

Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Peter Burke, TD, said: “SMEs are the backbone of our communities and of our economy. I am working with Minister O’Donovan to continue to support SMEs and we are currently developing proposals for the effective and sustainable use of the €1.5bn surplus in the National Training Fund. This will future-proof workforce skills in SMEs and ensure workers in SMEs can readily access lifelong learning opportunities, which will be of benefit to both employers and employees.”

Paul Healy, Chief Executive, Skillnet Ireland said: “The dynamism and innovation represented in the 23,000 companies that worked with us last year speaks to the possibilities that upskilling and talent development have for business. This is also reflected in the uptake of our national Initiatives such as Skillnet Climate Ready Academy helping companies achieve their sustainability goals. It’s with the same commitment and readiness that Skillnet Ireland looks forward to contributing to an ever more joined-up skills ecosystem for businesses.”

A recent research report from Skillnet Ireland revealed that 49% of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises 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 and 33% of SMEs have highlighted that cost is a barrier to upskilling.

Donnacha Hurley, General Manager, Absolute Hotel, said: “The increased emphasis on our people as a key differentiator in a crowded marketplace such as hotels is more relevant than ever. Supports for businesses are vital as they enable SMEs to overcome some of the challenges being faced on a daily basis. The support provided by Skillnet Ireland through a number of Skillnet Business Networks, has enabled over 20% of my team to upskill in the past 12 months, in areas such as leadership development, digital marketing and revenue management. These are all skills needed for us to continue to thrive and to provide for our customers in addition to providing an enriched staff experience. Skillnet Ireland really does make a difference.”

In its last reported figures, in 2022, through the network of Skillnet Business Networks across every Irish county and in every sector, the national agency delivered a total of 676,400 training days, through 10,966 training programmes, to 24,747 businesses, resulting in 92,489 individuals receiving training.

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