For our latest Network Insider interview, we had a chat with Ashling Ward the Network Manager of Carlow Kilkenny Skillnet, to find out how the learning network operates and about the different learning and development opportunities it promotes for Carlow and Kilkenny.
Name of Network: Carlow Kilkenny Skillnet
Number of members: 260
Sector(s) covered: Mixed – Regional across Carlow and Kilkenny.
Year established: 1999
Please describe what your network does and how it came about?
The Carlow Kilkenny Skillnet started in 1999, when a group of Owner/Managers and HR professionals from the Engineering/Manufacturing sectors in the region, began sharing knowledge and best practice tips. The group of contacts would meet informally and host site visits amongst themselves. The timing of this informal grouping coincided with the announcement of the release of the first Skillnet Network funding. The funding allowed our group to structure and organise formally as Carlow Kilkenny Training Network, and over a two-year period, the network expanded into other sectors in the region. 20 years on, the Carlow Kilkenny Skillnet is the first port of call for SMEs in the area who need help with workplace learning, training and upskilling.
Can you outline one key way your network impacted positively on the sector?
Supporting the SMEs in the region with learning and development solutions. The network is a resource that provides advice and consultation to all SMEs in the region. Many of the SMEs we work with don’t have the resources or facilities for training and upskilling, we make sure they get the right support in a way that caters to their business needs.
What has been the most transformative initiative in your sector or region in the last year?
Last year in collaboration with Waterford Chamber Skillnet and County Tipperary Skillnet we ran an E-Learning Conference which was transformative from a regional perspective. This helped bring e-learning solutions to Skillnet members across the regions and now we offer these courses to our members. We are further adding to our e-learning initiative with the introduction of digitalised content this year. The most transformative initiative by sector has been in the childcare space. Members noticed a few years ago that there was a large skills gap in the childcare sector. From this, we developed a Level 7 qualification in Early Childhood Education in collaboration with the County Childcare Committee and Carlow IT. Last year this collaboration developed further with the addition of a Level 9 Masters in Early Childhood Education.
What new trends do you see emerging within your industry?
More and more we are seeing a growing emphasis on training owner/managers about resilience, leadership and learning new ways of coping in the new world of work. From our recent training needs analysis, we can see there is now a requirement for managers to be able to manage resilience in the workplace and manage staff in comparison to the past when technical training was more of a priority. The training covers areas like managing new graduates entering the workplace for the first time and leadership style.
What skills do you think are most important for a small business owner/manager?
A small business owner/manager needs to be innovative, a great multitasker, technically competent and able to manage talent. Attracting and retaining talent is a recurring theme in our region. To assist with this, we are collaborating with other Skillnet Networks in the South-East to host an Innovation Conference in 2019, a key theme of this event will focus on attracting and competing for talent.
Do you have any advice for a business that is considering joining a Skillnet Ireland Network?
My advice is every company should find out which network works best for their business and become a member. Joining a Skillnet Ireland Network is a no-brainer, the training is flexible, collaborative and the networks work directly with members to bring the best training solutions to their business.