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Network Profile Name of Network: Cork Chamber Skillnet Number of members: 1200 Sector(s) covered: Regional Network, multi-sectoral Year established: 2000   For our first Network Insider interview of 2021, we spoke to Garrett O’Rourke, Cork Chamber Skillnet Network Manager to learn about the range of supports they offer to businesses in the Cork region.  

Describe what your Network does and how it came about?

Established in 2000 as one of Skillnet Ireland’s early Networks, Cork Chamber Skillnet is a regional, multi-sectoral business network promoted by Cork Chamber of Commerce. Having identified skills shortages within the region in the areas of management development, leadership, professional skills and Digital/IT, Cork Chamber Skillnet was set up to address these skills gaps. The network supports a broad range of companies from Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to Multinational Corporations (MNCs).  

Can you outline one keyway your network impacts positively on your sector?

Partnering with so many different sectors means we recognise that many of the challenges facing business are very similar, if not the same. This enables us to collaborate, propose ideas and work on training solutions that address these skills gaps. This allows many of our members to partake in the design element of purpose-built programmes and training. This buy-in from partners means we can provide bespoke enterprise-led solutions that have a significant impact.  

What has been the most transformative initiative in your sector in the last year?

During 2020 naturally COVID-19 was a substantial challenge for businesses. As a member of the South West Regional Skills Fora, we identified a significant skills gap in the early stages of the pandemic for Human Resource (HR)/Learning and Development Managers to be able to upskill staff remotely and adjust to the new norm. The ‘How to Create Training Videos’ course was developed with The South West Regional Skills Fora and delivered twice during the year to over 30 companies and facilitated the transition of remote upskilling. Collaboration was key in rolling this out successfully.  

What new trends do you see emerging within your industry?

How we work and where we work will be forever changed as a result of COVID-19. Flexible working arrangements and learning opportunities, for employees and employers, in order to help with recruitment and retention are major challenges. Cork Chamber Skillnet deliver a series of HR Forum events that facilitate idea generation and best practices to support these areas.  

How is your Network using technology to facilitate learning and development programmes?

 Zoom, WebEx, Microsoft Teams are now the new standard and with all of our training now fully online, Cork Chamber Skillnet envisage that even when we get back to ‘normal’, we will still have demand for certain training or programmes to be facilitated online. A hybrid model of online learning will need to be embraced and this in turn can create certain opportunities. This might mean opening up our potential list of top-quality training providers or further increasing our reach to other members in the Cork region.

What skills do you think are most important for a small business owner/manager?

Lifelong long learning is of increasing importance and enables business owner/managers to keep their finger on the pulse. Be it in the areas of finance, sales, marketing or leadership upskilling, continuous learning enables business owners/managers to understand and keep pace with the ever-changing business world. Similarly, creating contacts and networking opportunities with other businesses/employees is vital for both idea generation and innovation.  

Do you have any advice for a business that is considering joining a Skillnet Business Network?

Just reach out via phone or email as you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. The various upskilling supports available from Skillnet Ireland partner directly with business, including everything from industry-led training, conferences, networking to third level certifications. For further information on Cork Chamber Skillnet please visit   Learn more Visit the Cork Chamber Skillnet website to learn more about the development opportunities they offer businesses of all shapes and sizes. Keep up to date with their latest news on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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