Skillnet Ireland has, today, launched its 2020 annual report, reporting an 18% increase in supports to Irish businesses across 2020 and an investment of €51 million in upskilling programmes for companies across the economy.
In a challenging year for businesses and the workforce, 81,895 people participated in upskilling programmes through Skillnet Ireland – a 17% increase on the previous year. The business support agency also reported an increase in the number of companies engaging with the organisation in 2020, up 18% on the previous year, at 21,695. 94% of the companies Skillnet Ireland supported in 2020 are SMEs.
Commenting on the publication, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD said:
“Talent is at the heart of our national competitiveness. It has been instrumental in helping businesses navigate a challenging year and will be especially important in preparing businesses for future challenges such as climate change and digital transformation. In 2020, Skillnet Ireland played a critical role in providing for the needs of our workforce, supporting over 81,000 workers through its Skillnet business networks. The government is committed to continuing this progress and ensuring that we have the right skills to recover and to thrive, and to meet the ever-changing talent needs of our economy.”
Skillnet Ireland delivered 9,110 different programmes spanning industry and professional certified courses, management development programmes, specialised upskilling, new industry and academia collaborations, and many innovation and research-based projects in 2020.
Launching the annual report, Brendan McGinty, Chairperson, Skillnet Ireland said: “As we take stock of an unprecedented year, it has been heartening to see the fundamental role skills and talent has played in helping Irish businesses to survive and grow. I am proud to say that through our deep industry roots and our agility, Skillnet Ireland supported a record number of companies and individuals to navigate the most testing circumstance seen for many years. We also set out an ambitious path for the future of our organisation with our 2021-2025 Statement of Strategy which will see us increase the number of businesses we support to 30,000 annually, boost innovation and prepare the Irish workforce for long term success.”
Paul Healy, Chief Executive, Skillnet Ireland, said: “2020 was a year where we blended challenge with ambition. Together with our industry partners, Skillnet Ireland responded swiftly to deliver impact when it was needed most for the business community. We supported over 21,000 companies as they remodelled their businesses, embraced digitalisation, adapted to new ways of working, and navigated a myriad of new challenges. It was particularly pleasing to see the commitment of so many businesses to Skillnet Ireland despite the financial constraints they experienced, with a total contribution of €17.9 million towards the cost of our upskilling programmes in 2020 coming from employers.”
Highlights for 2020 included the launch of a new 5-year strategy for the organisation that sets out ambitious targets to increase the organisation’s engagement with business and industry, double the numbers participating in talent development programmes and focus on the challenges of digital transformation and climate change.
In 2020, Skillnet Ireland introduced several new national upskilling schemes to enable leaders and managers adapt their businesses to new ways of operating and working, including ReBound – ReBuilding Business and MentorsWork, a mentoring programme for owners and managers of SMEs in Ireland. Skills Connect was also launched and was designed to help workers severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic to reskill quickly and secure new job opportunities in high growth sectors including technology, medtech, renewable energy and agri-food.