For our first Network Insider interview we caught up with Taste 4 Success Skillnet Network Manager, Bridie Corrigan Matthews, to find out how the learning network operates, the different learning and development opportunities it promotes, and the impact the Taste 4 Success Skillnet training has on member companies’ business success.
Name of Network: Taste 4 Success Skillnet
Number of members: 400+
Sector(s) covered: Food, Seafood, Beverage
Year established: 2008
Please describe what your network does and how it came about?
The Taste 4 Success Skillnet was originally created by a group of individual companies from the food, beverage and seafood sectors in the North-West of Ireland. The network then expanded to provide training and upskilling to the Midlands, Atlantic Seaboard, Eastern and South Western regions. Today, the network is still run by a group of independent companies and Rosderra Irish Meats Group is our promoting organisation.
Our strategic intent is to be at the forefront of identifying and delivering key skills and competencies across the food, seafood and beverage sectors so our members and their employees can be successful, grow, employ and sustain their businesses in Ireland. We continue to seek out and actively engage with new member companies and have experienced a 40% increase in active membership during the last four years. A key priority is continually identifying, designing and developing specific skills programmes that enable the growth potential of our members.
Can you outline one key way your network impacted positively on the sector?
Our training model contains a significant number of accredited, industry-approved programmes delivered on a local level and linked with Government policy and research, such as Food Wise 2025 and Harvest 2020. Our programmes have been developed with the input of subject matter experts, owner-managers and key personnel of member companies, and most did not previously exist. For example, in conjunction with Bord Iascaigh Mhara and member companies, we have re-written the Manual Fish Filleting Award at QQI Level 5 and created two minor Awards – Fish Smoking and Shellfish Techniques in response to this sector’s needs.
What has been the most transformative initiative in your sector in the last year?
There is an urgent need across the hospitality sector in Ireland for trained technical chef assistants to work alongside qualified chefs. Currently, 1,800 chefs qualify each year from certified culinary training programmes, leaving an immediate deficit of 5,000 trainees annually.
In response to this, and in collaboration with member companies and the School of Food, Taste 4 Success Skillnet designed and developed an 11-week intensive programme called Modern Skills for Modern Chefs. This programme provides trainees with introductory commis chef skills, work placement and work experience as an intrinsic part of the programme, supported by local businesses. All 15 trainees who completed the 11-week programme and graduated with a Level 4 Award in Food Industry Skills accredited by The Food & Drink Qualifications Board are now employed. This has been a great achievement for our network given this critical skills shortage.
What new trends do you see emerging within your industry?
There are a few emerging trends in the food and drink sector that we are currently responding to. These include developing open/digital badge technology for the non-accredited programmes undertaken by enterprise in the food sector. Our network is leading a new research project with University College Cork (UCC) in this area. Currently, there is no accreditation or formal recognition for this non-accredited learning, and this has presented an opportunity for us to research the potential to develop these digital badges.
We are also working on language skills and intercultural diversity training as many of our members need to seek expert skills from outside of Ireland. This training helps create high performing diverse cultural teams. There are other specialist growth sectors that have really taken off such as craft artisan food, new chef and food operation skills, and brewing and distilling.
What skills do you think are most important for a small business owner/manager?
Building management development capability is definitely one of the most important skills for small business owner-managers. To help address this, over the last few years we have developed management development programmes that focus on providing skills and knowledge for owner-managers that encapsulate key management techniques and competencies.
Do you have any advice for a business that is considering joining a Skillnet network?
Companies have a huge opportunity to engage with a wide range of Skillnet networks. The key success factor of the Skillnet model is that businesses have access to industry experts and trainers that they previously may not have known about, or have been able to access, without joining a learning network.