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Network Profile 

Name of Network:   M1 Drogheda Chamber Skillnet

Members: 300+ businesses 

Sector(s) covered:  Regional Network, all sectors facilitated 

Year established:  2018 

Network Manager: Stephen McDonnell 


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

The M1 Drogheda Chamber Skillnet was founded in 2018 when the Drogheda and District Chamber of CommerceThe Mill Enterprise Centre, and M1Corridor identified a need for a targeted approach to talent development in the region to ensure the North-East could leverage its highly skilled workforce and attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to the area. 

M1 Drogheda Chamber Skillnet works with our Steering Group and member companies to identify current needs and future trends to deliver innovative, timely and cost-effective learning interventions. We are focused on quality and business impact as our core deliverables.  

As a regional Skillnet, we support a range of businesses, from single-person micro-businesses to 300+ large businesses across all sectors. This gives us very rich and diverse insights and expertise which helps to develop learning clusters. It’s important to us that the single-person micro-businesses have access to the same learning and development opportunities and business support as large multinationals.  

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

Agility is the word that comes to mind. There have been several occasions in the last two years when our member companies required swift intervention, and we have been well-positioned to deliver talent development solutions quickly. Having an engaged and connected Steering Group and a panel of high-quality trainers, has allowed us to deliver high impact learning interventions to businesses that are reflective of the ‘new normal’ and have brought real change to their business.  

The ‘coaching’ style we adopt when working with businesses is to identify their needs as well as their wants. This gives us a great opportunity to co-create high impact programmes and encourages businesses to challenge us to develop and deliver innovative programmes that deliver change in their operations.  

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

The last 2 years working through the pandemic has been tough for all businesses we work with. The primary focus in 2020 and 2021 was on strategy and safety, and we have supported these businesses to ensure their staff have been able to work in a safe way, communicate in a safe manner and lead their people to the point we are today looking at the next step – leading the change. 

Our focus for 2022 is aligned to our member companies and is looking at the following macro challenges: 

  • Retention  
  • Leadership development  
  • Organisational change/transformation.  
  • Digital Leadership 

Many of the businesses we work with have been busy with recruitment campaigns over the past 18 months and are mindful of the value that learning and development opportunities have on retaining the quality staff they have in the business.  

Additionally, 2022 is bringing about change in a variety of different forms for many businesses. Some are growing, some are structurally changing their working practices, others are changing their organisation’s structure. We are developing and delivering opportunities for professional development in these areas across all levels of an organisation. Our new programmes are focused on leading change from the top and leading operational transformation in the workplace for managers and teams.  

The area of leadership development will be the most transformative. Our programmes have been reframed to develop leaders that have the confidence and capacity to address the real challenges in business. This ‘BANI world’ (Brittle, Anxious, Non-linear, Incomprehensible) that we are in today lends itself to showing high-capacity leadership as one of a business’s greatest assets. 

What new trends do you see emerging within your industry? 

Within the region, the key topics and trends we are seeing are similar to the general economic landscape. Some of these topics are the hybridisation of the workplace and leadership development, use of intelligent digital tools to free up capacity for higher-value work, sustainability of business and environment and development of regional tourism identity. 

These topics were being discussed in 2021 and this year are being implemented and formalised in business. From discussing and working with member companies, the real value lies in looking at these macro trends on a local level. As significantly large topics we are working collaboratively to break these down to short-term, medium-term and long-term actions, and develop them into learning and development pathways. We are also building frameworks around the qualifications of staff to bring these concepts from introduction through to mainstream standard processes and operations. 

We are also seeing a shift in the attainment of certification, moving towards a focus on deliverable and applicable skills that have an immediate impact. This is moving many of the learning pathways towards micro-credentialing and microlearning interventions. This is also showing up in recruitment where competency-based interviews are becoming the norm. It’s a bit of immediacy in the ‘show me what you can do’ after the time invested in the learning.  

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

I’m a real fan of technology, it’s something I am very passionate about so some of the things that we have been doing within the last year include: 

Applying automation to a significant amount of administration within the day-to-day operations of the Network. We have digitalised the customer journey, we no longer use documents to be filled in and emailed, we use QR codes and hot links for registration and evaluations – this has been a great opportunity for companies and trainees to have a simple way of interacting and de-risks everybody involved when it comes to data protection. 

We have simplified our payment pathway to reduce the number of clicks from when a person is interested in the programme to the point where they can book it directly. This sounds like a simple step but its one that has a huge impact on turning programme leads to conversions. 

We have introduced a web-based training platform available through our website in partnership with Olive Group. Businesses that may not be able to attend standard training can now develop their staff when it suits. This platform will also be used for pre-learning with some programmes. 

We are moving several programmes to a fully blended training model. This reduces the cost for our businesses to attend while making the in-person training time extremely valuable and impactful for the learners. 

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

Many small business owners and managers have got to where they are by doing things themselves, so we need to offer solutions that develop their capacities to grow their businesses.  This is why we have been developing opportunities for learning in leadership management, developing business models, innovation, effectiveness, strategy and performance management.  

Another challenge all businesses face is the ‘unknown unknowns’ – things they don’t even know they need to find out. A great example of this is the automation of repetitive tasks that can be done within modern software packages without a huge investment. One of the things that we’re doing to assist here is highlighting and showcasing the capacity for efficiency development within a business’s current structure to allow it to scale – increasing its talent base and market share. 

The conversation on workplace wellness is growing. Leading with emotional intelligence (EI), mental health first aid, managing bereavement, building a resilient team and psychological safety are all topics that have come up recently. It is an area we are working on currently with plans to deliver a comprehensive suite of programmes that allow leaders to develop these key soft skills of their staff. As we move into a more digitalised society and workplace these skills are becoming increasingly more important. 

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

Talk to your relevant Skillnet Business Network Manager. Set aside a bit of time to explore your challenges, your ideas, opportunities in your industry and co-create the talent and skills development programmes required with the Network and other businesses in your region. 

The model has the agility and flexibility to work with your business to give you the talent development that your business needs and wants. 

Learn more  

Visit the M1 Drogheda Chamber Skillnet website to learn more about the upskilling and development opportunities they offer. Keep up to date with their latest news on TwitterLinkedInFacebook and Instagram.   

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