Minister Simon Harris launches “Skills Connect” to support workers who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19

Oct 7th, 2020

“Skills Connect” launched to support workers who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19

The Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD, has today launched Skillnet Ireland’s new initiative, Skills Connect, aimed at helping workers severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic to reskill quickly, secure new roles within their sector, or undertake innovative conversion courses to access job opportunities in new sectors.

Skills Connect is delivered in close partnership with employers. The initiative offers individuals the opportunity to develop new skills, build confidence and access valuable on-the-job training. Over 20 Skillnet Networks will deliver Skills Connect programmes in sectors where there is high employment potential and a demand for talent, including:  Technology, Agri-food, Medtech, Cyber Security, Logistics, Energy Efficiency and Retrofitting, Customer Experience (CX), Law and Digital Marketing.

Speaking at the launch of the initiative Minister Harris said: “Since the onset of this pandemic the Government has worked hard to minimise the economic impact on those who have lost their job or have been laid off.  

At the same time, we must and are investing in people and provide fresh opportunities to those whose careers and livelihoods have been worst impacted.  

The initiative will focus on supporting people from those sectors most badly affected by COVID-19 including hospitality, tourism, and retail and  offer them the opportunity to reskill and retrain in sectors with employment potential including cyber security, software programming, digital marketing and customer service. We expect to help 2,000 people by the end of the year with many more in 2021.

“We must do everything possible to get businesses back on their feet and get people back to work quickly. I would really encourage anyone who can to log onto to find out more. This is a time of great challenge for people but this initiative will help so many people and so many companies find their way in this Covid world.”

Under the Skills Connect initiative employers will provide work placements, mentoring and a range of other career development supports.

Paul Healy, Chief Executive of Skillnet Ireland, said: “Since the onset of the pandemic we have intensified the collaboration with our industry partners, providing speedy and high impact solutions that are making a real difference on the ground. 

The Skillnet Ireland model is enterprise-led and highly adaptable to the ever-changing needs of businesses. Skills Connect is a practical employer-driven initiative that connects affected workers to new opportunities in the workplace, by building on their existing skills and experience.

Skills Connect will also contribute to the other challenges facing businesses and our workforce, including Brexit, accelerated digitalisation and building Ireland’s green economy. We look forward to playing our full part in supporting the economic recovery.”

Skillnet Ireland will leverage its deep industry roots across the country to help the workers find opportunities in new and emerging sectors. Over 300 companies from an array of industries have already committed to supporting the Skills Connect initiative through the provision of work placements, mentoring and other supports.

Tom Clarke, Site Director, West Pharmaceutical Services Inc, said: “We are delighted to be in a position to work in partnership with Skillnet Ireland to support workers who have lost their jobs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

West Pharmaceuticals is a rapidly expanding business providing device design, development, and manufacturing services for pharmaceutical and med-tech customers. We need talented and skilled team members to join our team in Ireland. We look forward to reskilling and upskilling those looking to re-enter the workforce and supporting them in the next step in their career.”

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