Name of Network: L&D Skillnet
Sector(s) covered: Learning and Development professionals
Year established: 2008
Network Manager: Bradley Nolan
Please describe what your Skillnet Business Network does and how it came about?
Established in 2008 by the Learning & Development Institute, formerly known as the Irish Institute of Training & Development (IITD), the mission of the L&D Skillnet is to help the learning and development (L&D) profession grow with the needs of the industries it supports. Since being established, the L&D Skillnet has been instrumental in bringing about new training practices, redevelopment and enhancement of existing training practices, and in funding published research to help grow the L&D profession in Ireland.
In November 2022, the network rebranded from Trainers’ Learning Skillnet to L&D Skillnet to better reflect the broader nature of its work and to become more closely aligned with the needs of industry and their professional community.
Can you outline one important way your Skillnet Business Network impacts positively on your sector?
The L&D Skillnet plays a key role in advancing the L&D agenda in Ireland and elevating the position of L&D professionals at the strategic decision-making level in the boardroom.
Members of the L&D Skillnet, as a cohort, represent the key decision makers within the corporate learning ecosystem in Ireland, operating across all sectors of the economy. They also play a primary role in initiating talent development interventions and upskilling opportunities for their colleagues across all functions within a business. In this way, members of the L&D Skillnet are very strong advocates of the overall Skillnet Ireland mission: helping businesses in Ireland to be the best they can be, through innovative and enterprise-driven people development.
What new trends do you see emerging within your industry?
Traditional job structures are under considerable threat, with individual careers at significant risk of becoming unsustainable. However, with these risks will come opportunities for progressive organisations to rethink how they can engage with the labour market. As a network, we are looking to explore the idea of sustainable careers. A sustainable career is one that is aligned with the individuals’ interests, strengths, and values, and offers opportunities for ongoing learning and renewal. Ultimately, building a sustainable career will give people the ability to better maintain aspects of their career, and life, over the long-term.
Following on from our ‘Enabling the Workforce of the Future’ research, the results of which were published in the prestigious Sloan Business Review, we are examining potential skills-based approaches within the L&D ecosystem. This new research project concentrates on the idea that employees have acquired many skills across both their career and private life that could be captured and then accessed by employers. The research will explore ways for industry to create a marketplace to capture these skills, which can then be leveraged by the employee or business when new opportunities arise. The outcomes of this research project are scheduled to be published early in 2023.
How is your Skillnet Business Network using technology to facilitate learning and development programmes?
As part of the recent rebrand to L&D Skillnet, a new website database was created to give us the technical capability to grow, and add functionality for, our member community. This new platform allows us to target and segment our members with relevant offerings, and to assess our members requirements.
This development has opened up a world of possibilities. As an example, we are researching a competency framework for the L&D sector, which will be ready for publication in Q2 2023. Once it is launched, we will integrate the competency framework into our database, allowing members to engage with it through an online self-assessment tool. The idea is to create a feedback mechanism whereby members can generate their own self-assessment reports, which are also then captured on our database.
Since competencies can be company or industry specific, the design of the tool will allow our members to create their own competency frameworks and, in doing so, identify their specific skills gaps. This helps ensure that the framework is future-proofed for members and allows us as a network to identify emerging trends across the skills economy, enabling us to put impactful training solutions in place for members.
What has been the most transformative initiative in your sector in the last year?
The launch of our Level 9 Masters in Strategic Learning and Development is something that we are extremely proud of and have been working towards for many years. This is the only L&D Masters programme in Ireland, and it completes our qualifications pathway for L&D professionals. We now offer an entry-level Level 6 Professional Practice Certificate and Level 7 Diploma through UCC, and now a Master’s through DCU at Level 9.
We see this as a key pillar in advancing the L&D agenda by helping employers to invest in their L&D personnel and giving L&D leaders a more strategic lens. The programme is designed in conjunction with leading industry and academic experts, so that the subject matter incorporates both professional and applied L&D business material as well as analytic components.
The first intake of learners commenced in September 2022 and comprises of a cross sectoral cohort of L&D leaders from large corporations to small and medium-sized companies, as well as training providers. Feedback from the tutors and participants is incredibly positive and we are gaining great insights through the emerging themes from group discussions.
What skills do you think are most important for a small business owner/manager?
I think leadership programmes are important for business owners/managers. This cohort tend to be time poor, so they don’t always like to commit to programmes but looking after your own professional development should not be neglected. Attending thought leadership programmes is a great way to take a step back and get perspective on your business, and you always pick up something new from the other attendees.
I would also say diplomacy is a key skill for business owners and managers, as they must bring a wide variety of internal and external stakeholders with them in whatever direction they want to take their organisation. So perhaps business partnering skills programmes would benefit business owners/managers.
Do you have any advice for a business that is considering joining a Skillnet Business Network?
To get the most out of your engagement with a Skillnet Business Network it is important to have broad consultation with the Network Manager about the entirety of your business needs.
As Network Managers, our first conversation with an organisation is often led by them discussing their immediate business needs. By turning that into a broader discussion about the strategy and structure of each business, it will bring other talent development opportunities to light. It is more important to see people and talent development as a strategic function of your broader business strategy. The L&D Skillnet can address some of those opportunities, while other opportunities can be supported by other Skillnet Business Networks, but something always falls out of having that initial assessment/conversation.
Visit the L&D Skillnet website to learn more about their upskilling and talent development opportunities.
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