For our latest Network Insider interview, we had a chat with Sara Mullally, Network Manager of Waterford Chamber Skillnet, to find out how the network supports Waterford and the South East region of Ireland.
Name of Network: Waterford Chamber Skillnet
Number of members: 272
Sector(s) covered: Manufacturing, Healthcare, Financial sector, FinTech, ICT, Law, Pharma, Biopharma, AgriFood and Childcare.
Year established: 2003
Please describe what your network does and how it came about?
Waterford Chamber Skillnet was established in 2003 by Waterford Chamber. In the main, the network was initially established to support hard manufacturing in Waterford City. As Waterford has grown and changed over the years, the Waterford Chamber Skillnet has evolved to work with and provide necessary training supports to many SMEs operating in Waterford City and County.
Can you outline one key way your network impacted positively on the sector?
Working with so many different sectors allows us to see many of the issues facing business are very similar if not the same. This enables us to come together, propose ideas and work on solutions that address these common needs. This allows many of our members to partake in the design element of purpose-built programmes and training.
What has been the most transformative initiative in your sector in the last year?
There have been two major successes for us over the past year. Our Mentor Programme is addressing the need for leadership and management learning through practical and experiential learning from experienced leaders.
Additionally, the development of our Graduate+ Plus Programme enables recent graduates from local third level institutions to engage on a 5-modular pilot course. The modules covered Emotional Intelligence, Communications for Problem Solving, Effective Meeting and Presentation Skills, Goal Setting & Time Management and Quality/Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). We collaborated with WIT (Waterford Institute of Technology) and the Waterford Area Partnership on developing this initiative.
This pilot course assists with graduates’ communications and interactions with colleagues and managers as they embark on their first work based graduate programme. Companies that supported the initiative included Ernst and Young, Bausch & Lomb, Sanofi and Dawn Meats. It was designed with our members to address certain skills gaps and has provided us with a new way of approaching training development for millennials going into 2019/20.
What new trends do you see emerging within your industry?
Focus on Leadership, and the changing ways of recruiting, ways of working, work-based learning and retention.
What skills do you think are most important for a small business owner/manager?
It can’t be overstated how important making an investment in your own education and that of your team is. It enables businesses owners to understand and keep pace with the ever-changing business environment. I also think collaboration with other businesses is vital for innovation as it helps generate new ideas. This keeps things fresh and moving forward.
Do you have any advice for a business that is considering joining a Skillnet Network?
There are so many opportunities to be had from joining your local or industry-specific Skillnet, from networking, conferences, industry-led training and awarding of third level certifications. Our aim is to work with a business through the entire life cycle of an employee, from entry-level graduates to CEOs there is something for everyone.