Name of Network: Learning Waves Skillnet
Number of businesses: 37
Sector(s) covered: Independent Commercial Radio Sector
Year established: 2004
Please describe what your network does and how it came about?
Learning Waves Skillnet provides business and learning supports for the Independent Commercial Radio Sector in Ireland. The Skillnet Network was established in 2004 in response to a training needs analysis carried out by the sector in conjunction with the regulator, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI).
The network, through collaboration with the industry, develops, designs, and delivers training and upskilling programmes and events to meet the needs of the Independent Commercial Radio Sector. The network represents national, regional, and local radio stations across the country, alongside sales houses; Media Central, IRS+ and Urban Media. The Board and Manager of Learning Waves Skillnet execute the annual training and networking plans with passion and precision to meet the business needs of our enterprises and the workforce within this sector.
The network also operates in partnership with the industry regulator, the BAI and the industry lobbying body, the Independent Broadcasters of Ireland (IBI). Additionally, our Project Manager is a member of Media Literacy Ireland and of the Choose Radio group. The network has also developed partnerships with BBC Radio Belfast, the Institute of Advertising Practitioners of Ireland (IAPI), the BAI Broadcasting Sustainability Network, the Radio Academy in the UK, and the Radio Centre UK. These partnerships allow us to access experts in the areas of broadcasting, advertising, production, and sustainability, all of which underpin our programme delivery.
Can you outline one keyway your network impacts positively on your sector?
We have very long and well-established relationships with the commercial radio sector. As a result, Learning Waves Skillnet is the ‘go to’ for all learning and development needs across the sector, for networking opportunities and for access to key information and trainers that will further develop and grow the sector.
The networking opportunities afforded to members by the network has had a significant impact of staff at all levels across the sector. It has connected people across the sector with each other and with experts from all over the world, something that would not have been possible before the establishment of the network. The key takeaway that has impacted positively on the sector has been the establishment of high-quality training programmes across all disciplines and the network’s ability to be agile, flexible and responsive to the business needs of the sector at any given time.
What has been the most transformative initiative in your sector in the last year?
Like all other networks, Learning Waves Skillnet has had to change the way it operates, and strategic plans have been put on hold as the network pivoted to meet the member needs in a Covid-19 world. The impact has been significant and the most transformative initiative since then has been the move to delivery of all training programmes and events online, using Zoom or other online platforms that are suitable for such.
The shift to online for all business has had a significant impact on the sector, from the skills required to meet advertisers needs, to the skills required to broadcast remotely and the skills required to manage teams remotely. In response to this the network developed new programmes that have had a transformative impact on the sector over the last 8 months. Such programmes included Digital Marketing Certificate for Radio, Social Media Diploma for Radio, Mobile Journalism Certificate and Managing Creative Teams Remotely. Together all these programmes have had a significant impact on the sector over the last eight months, giving participants key sales, communications, and technical skills to support their stations and clients during the pandemic.
What new trends do you see emerging within your industry?
Radio has become a multi-media platform and content must now be available to listeners and advertisers on platforms that are accessible to them anywhere, at any time and on any platform. As a result of this, the key trends emerging in the sector are the development of strategies by stations to enable them to successfully grow as multi-media organisations. Giving employees the space, flexibility, and opportunity to upskill while at work will be key in the realisation of organisational plans. Learning Waves Skillnet will play a key role in this by supporting stations to deliver training in a flexible manner that can be accessed by all employees at times, places and on platforms that are suitable for them.
In addition to the above, the need to attract and recruit new talent into the industry is a key focus for the networks members. The network supports its members in this area by delivering its 360 Broadcast Bootcamp course to attract new on-air talent into the industry. In 2019, the network developed a Journalism Graduate Programme, with five Journalism Graduates placed in five different radio stations for a period of five months. This programme was supported by stations, Skillnet Ireland and the BAI.
Several graduates have been retained by stations on completion of the programme. The network is currently developing this programme for roll out in 2021. Partnerships with Dundalk Institute of Technology (DkIT), Mary Immaculate College, Limerick, TUI Dublin and Dublin City University (DCU) have been established to give students the opportunity to access these programmes which will help them secure a job in the sector and gives the network members access to new and emerging talent.
How is your Network using technology to facilitate learning and development programmes?
Since Covid-19, the network has invested in additional online licences to support training being delivered virtually. It was extremely important for the network to maintain face to face contact with trainers and as such significant resources in terms of budget and time have been invested in Zoom as a platform to deliver training to both small and large groups. Our network has invested in a Learner Management System which will host all the content from training courses delivered in 2020. This includes audio, video and visual content and serves as a resource for trainees during and on completion of training courses.
The use of Zoom as a platform for the delivery of the training has provided the network with an opportunity to record video and audio content, with the trainer’s consent, from all training courses. Such content is a significant resource for the network and trainees, a resource that prior to Covid-19 would have been beyond the networks budget. In addition to Zoom, the network has also invested in online project management, graphic design, video editing and social media tools to support the increased demands on network resources to pivot quickly, efficiently and successfully over the last eight months.
The network believes that in the future, post Covid-19, or while we are learning to live with Covid-19, that a blended learning approach will be adopted by the network and in order to do this successfully additional technological resources and skills will be required.
What skills do you think are most important for a small business owner/manager?
Fundamentally, the most important skills required for a small business owner/manager are leadership skills, and within that, key skills of communication, delegation, people management, strategic thinking are essential to succeed as a small business. The area of communication has come to the fore since Covid-19 and the need for ongoing remote communication is now vital for the success of any business. Some businesses have mastered this skill better than others and I fundamentally believe that it is only now that managers are getting the time and space to invest in training for themselves and their teams in this area. It will be a growing requirement across all businesses and at all levels within those businesses.
Since March 2020, businesses have been fundamentally disrupted and the focus on business continuity has been at the forefront, and it is only now that business owners are being allowed the space to determine what their and the businesses future skills and training needs will be.
Do you have any advice for a business that is considering joining a Skillnet Network?
If a business is considering joining a Skillnet Network, I would encourage business owners to connect with Network Managers to establish which network best meets their needs. The Network Manager will guide the business in relation to the training available along with the financial supports to deliver the training required. Once a business joins a Skillnet, I would encourage them to play an active role in the network, to get involved on the Steering Group, to be involved in working groups within the network and to encourage employees to avail of the training.
It is also hugely important for a business to network once they have joined the Skillnet and the benefits of networking are significant and have been for many businesses who are part of Skillnet Network, from gaining new business insights, to making new business contacts and to leveraging their skills through the network and the people within the network. Simply put, there is something for everyone by joining a Skillnet Network and there will be lots of fun along the way.