COVID-19 has meant significant changes for so many across the economy in 2020. Encouragingly, in a short space of time, many businesses have reinvented themselves entirely, showing the tenacity and innovative thinking required for tomorrow’s world of work. Within this rapidly changing economic landscape, continuous upskilling and reskilling is an essential component of futureproofing both our businesses and workforce.

Our free Skills Connect initiative, is helping workers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic to reskill quickly and prepare for new roles in sectors offering strong employment opportunities. Combined with industry-led upskilling and reskilling programmes, Skills Connect is providing hugely valuable work placements, on-the-job mentoring delivered in close collaboration with over 500 companies that have signed up to Skills Connect nationwide. Over 2,000 people will benefit from taking part in this first phase of programmes. More programmes will be announced in early 2021. Over 20 Skillnet Networks have designed Skills Connect programmes within sectors where there is high employment potential and a demand for talent, with some examples outlined below.

Supporting Ireland’s Climate Action Plan

The Climate Action Plan 2019 outlined ambitious targets to meet Ireland’s goal of decarbonising the economy over the next decade. This will see entire sectors of the economy undergo radical changes and create new types of enterprises and jobs. Ireland has enormous potential for renewable energy and an investment in renewable energy skills is needed to help meet our EU 2030 targets. To ensure there is a sustainable and resilient workforce in place to deliver upon the ambition of the Climate Action Plan and EU Recovery Plan, Green Tech Skillnet has launched a number of Skills Connect upskilling and work experience programmes that will provide a range of new career opportunities in the renewable energy sector. This includes areas such as wind energy, wind turbine technician, retrofitting and more.

Jeanette Gill, Green Tech Skillnet Network Manager, “The Green Tech Skillnet Skills Connect Programmes offer entry into one of the fastest growing sectors in Ireland. Our programmes offer an upskilling/conversion career path into renewable energy. What is unique about our programme is the access to industry experts throughout and the commitment from IWEA and the renewable energy sector to the programme”.

Supporting talent in the technology sector

Through Skills Connect the Technology Ireland ICT Skillnet has developed a new Future in Tech programme, with the support of a host of technology companies. This offers seven new certified Tech Skills Pathways to help non-tech jobseekers rapidly develop new digital skills and access new job opportunities in the technology sector. The programme is fully delivered online, and over 40 industry mentors support a pod of 4-6 participants throughout with an industry related project. The programme was significantly oversubscribed when it launched in September 2020, 448 participants completed the first part of the programme and 186 participants have commenced one of the seven technical pathways to date. Uniquely there is a ratio of 51% male and 49% female programme participants which is very positive.

With the digital transformation long underway, these skills are becoming gradually more important across all industries. Dave Feenan, Technology Ireland ICT Skillnet Network Manager, “Before COVID-19 there was already a substantial requirement for skilled people in the technology sector in Ireland. COVID-19 has increased that demand as society embraces technology more readily, as industry is innovating faster and more often and the recognition that technology is now a core utility in everyday life. Traditional models for increasing the talent pipeline are excellent, however as a result of COVID-19 many people lost their jobs but have the competencies and ability to take the first steps into a technology career path. Our Future in Tech Programme created seven skills pathways for unemployed people to change their lives for the better and add additionality to the national technology skills talent pipeline”.

Supporting key talent demand across the economy

Galway Executive Skillnet developed a Skills Connect MedTech Operator Programme which is aimed at helping job seekers succeed in the medical device industry. This blended programme is ideal for anyone looking to build a new career in MedTech manufacturing. There are currently two programmes of twelve participants each, one programme has already commenced, and the next is scheduled for mid-January. Companies operating in the region have committed to providing work placements and supports to trainees.

The programme initially came about from research undertaken by Galway Executive Skillnet in 2019. This research ‘Boosting Medtech, Manufacturing Engineers and Finance Talent to drive job growth in the West Region’ report, funded by Skillnet Ireland, highlighted the industry’s continued growth potential and its skills shortages. Carl Blake, Galway Executive Skillnet Manager, “Our close contact and connections with the local industry, even after COVID-19, provided clear evidence that the skills shortages and the demand for labour was still valid across the sector when taken as an entirety. While some companies have clearly suffered, some including some of the main players have remained buoyant with strong demand for certain products”.

Shannon Chamber Skillnet have designed a number of Skills Connect management development and executive programmes covering areas such as lean business management, sales, effective communications and more. Other key talent demand areas that the Skills Connect initiative will support include agri-food, cyber security, healthcare, logistics, customer experience (CX), law and digital marketing. Find out more about the range of programmes delivered by our Networks here.

Learn more about Skills Connect

Skills Connect is designed in partnership with enterprise to enhance cross-sector employability and support people who have lost their jobs. It offers a suite of free bespoke upskilling and training solutions, designed by enterprise, aimed at supporting re-entry into the workforce. Whether you’re a business owner who wants to connect with highly skilled talent or a worker looking for a new career opportunity after job displacement due to COVID-19, visit our dedicated Skills Connect site now to learn more.





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