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Network Profile 

Name of Network: Dundalk Chamber Skillnet

Members: 350

Sector(s) covered:  Multi-Sector

Year established:  2019

Network Manager: Aidan Callan


Please describe what your Skillnet Business Network does and how it came about?

Established in 2019, Dundalk Chamber Skillnet is a regional, multi sectoral network promoted by Dundalk Chamber of Commerce.

We were established to support regional development through upskilling and development. We work closely with local SME’s and FDI’s to understand skills gaps and we plug those gaps with high quality, affordable and accessible talent development programmes.

Can you outline one important way your Skillnet Business Network impacts positively on your sector?

Our biggest advantage is our agility and ability to quickly respond to changing needs.

We have a very engaged and committed steering group, who combined, employ in the region of 3,000 people in Dundalk. We regularly tap into the knowledge and experience of the group to determine existing skills gaps and we close those gaps through affordable and accessible upskilling.

As an example of this collaborative approach, in late 2021 we identified “Staff Retention” as a key challenge for businesses in 2022. We looked at the reasons why staff leave and while remuneration is important, typically poor relations with management and lack of career progression are key contributors. On the back of this we put together a suite of programmes aimed at supporting and developing new and existing managers, year to date over 250 trainees have attended these management related programmes.

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

In June 2021 we were successful in securing Skillnet Future Dynamics funding for a new Level 6 programme in Blockchain.

The need was determined through close collaboration with our member company, PayPal and the Fintech Corridor. The programme content was developed in consultation with member companies and DkIT.

Blockchain technology is transferable across multiple sectors with notable potential in healthcare, insurance, finance, energy and logistics. We developed the programme to demystify the technology, remove the barriers to entry and drive innovation through understanding.

The first two iterations were booked out, we’re currently planning a third cohort for Autumn 2022. By year end we expect to have introduced the technology to 60 trainees from 15 companies across the North-East.

The programme will have a notable impact on the region in supporting the development of a pipeline of talent and positioning the North East as a hub for Blockchain in Ireland.

What new trends do you see emerging within your industry?

The conversations we are having with member companies are reflective of the difficulties the economy is currently experiencing i.e. inflation, salaries and skills shortage.

With inflation running at historic levels we believe “Innovation” will be a key trend for 2023. As humans, we are creatures of habit and change can be slow but with the cost of business becoming prohibitive, organisations may have no option but to innovate. The pandemic has shown we can do it but it needs to be more ingrained.

“Innovation” will be a feature of our 2023 training schedule. We plan on running a series of programmes to assist organisations develop a culture of “entrepreneurship” within all departments to assist with the development of new products, services or techniques.

Additionally, we will focus on programmes that drive efficiencies and cut costs such as Six Sigma and Continuous Improvement, alongside programmes that encourage automation and digitalisation.

We recently supported a transport company on an “Eco Drive” training programme, 40 drivers received 1:1 tuition on Eco Driving techniques. As the metrics are monitored, we calculated fuel savings of €7 per 100km, a significant saving considering the mileage covered per year. This has the added benefit of reducing CO2 emissions by 220 tonnes. This is a great example of an innovative and sustainable approach through L&D to reducing costs while helping the environment.

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

We’re particularly excited about a new platform we’re trialling which digitises and greatly enhances the Training Needs Analysis process.

When devising a talent development plan, from experience, companies tend to send out a short questionnaire to managers. The responses can be quite generic with little thought put into the response.

We’ve worked with a training company to devise a Training Needs Analysis tool that focuses on the competencies required to work successfully within a role. The individual rates themselves on each competency, as does their manager and their peers.

Once complete, the system generates a detailed report. The report highlights areas for improvement and makes recommendations on suitable training courses. This enables the individual to take responsibility for their own development and can assist in developing career pathways within an organisation.

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

The most progressive companies we’ve encountered have demonstrated strong leadership, clear vision and a culture of continuous professional development.

The challenges the business community has experienced over the last few years has emphasised the importance of effective communication and delegation, a skill that is often under-rated.

The ability to effectively communicate and motivate colleagues by giving them a sense of purpose to deliver on the vision is critical to the success of any organisation.

Delegation is also important, surrounding yourself with the right people is key. It’s quite easy to get bogged down in the day to day but as a leader there should be a focus on removing barriers and ensuring skills and knowledge is shared. We’re seeing a strong demand for programmes on Coaching & Mentoring.

It’s also really important to ensure an appropriate level of support particularly for new managers. By year end we expect to have certified 100+ new managers through our QQI Level 6 People Management programme. It’s a great starting point that sets managers up for future success.

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

Definitely get in contact with your local Skillnet, regardless of size or industry. One of the most successful talent development initiatives we ran this year came off the back of a conversation with a micro organisation that required Negotiation training for two staff members. Within a week of the conversation we had a date for a public course and such was the demand, we ended up filling 3 cohorts.

There’s over 70 Skillnet networks throughout the island of Ireland and if your requirement is niche or sector specific, the network manager will be more than happy to point you in the right direction.

Learn more  

Visit the Dundalk Chamber Skillnet website to learn more about the upskilling and talent development opportunities.

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