Review of the value proposition of Skillnet Ireland networks and funding model to local and national employers against the current backdrop of offerings from traditional college provision.
Skillnet Ireland is a business support agency of the Government of Ireland, responsible for advancing the competitiveness, productivity, and innovation of Irish businesses through enterprise-led workforce development.
Skillnet Ireland believes that maintaining a highly skilled workforce is essential to national competitiveness. The gaols and ambitions of Skillnet Ireland as a business is to ensure that businesses have the skills it needs to thrive.
Skillnet Ireland currently support over 22,500 businesses nationwide and provide a wide range of valuable learning experiences to over 86,500 trainees. The mission is to facilitate increased participation in enterprise training and workforce learning in Ireland.
The 2021 to 2025 Transforming Business Through Talent Statement of Strategy* from Skillnet Ireland sets out very clearly this plan with core themes to reach these ambitious goals.
Investing in the National Workforce
Meeting the objectives of this Statement of Strategy is predicated on Skillnet Ireland developing an increased funding base. Currently, Skillnet Ireland operates on the basis of two income sources:
- Contributions from businesses participating in Skillnet Ireland programmes, and;
- Allocations from the employer-funded National Training Fund (NTF).
In 2019, employers contributed over €22 million to the cost of Skillnet Ireland programmes, with every €100 of exchequer investment in the Training Networks Programme attracting a further €117 in private investment. Our ability to leverage private sector investment to this extent is a compelling element of the Skillnet Ireland model and cost- sharing with employers is a principle the agency is fundamentally committed to.
The National Training Fund (NTF) reform programme is also central to this Statement of Strategy. As recommended under the NTF reforms, Skillnet Ireland is giving businesses and employers a direct voice
in determining NTF priorities. https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/6f600f-review-of-national-training-fund-implementation-plan/
Stakeholder Consultation & Strategic Themes
Informed by an extensive multi- stakeholder consultation spanning government, state agencies, industry bodies, worker representatives and the general public the agreed strategy would be for Skillnet Ireland to work to three strategic themes were highlighted through the consultation process:
- Workforce Design
- People Development
- Strategic Innovation
Over the coming five years Skillnet Ireland will direct its activities to these strategic themes and looking forward to working with all our stakeholders in the successful implementation of this strategy.
The impact of the 72 Skillnet Networks has had across all sectors and industries is evident from their Annual Report for 2021, the last full year of results available for this study.
|72 Networks Funded||57-Industry Bodies Engaged|
|22,500- Companies Engaged|
|9,853- Training Programmes Run|
|664,267- Training Days Completed Delivered|
|86,570- Trainees Trained||81,623- Employed Trainees|
|4,947 –Unemployed Trainees|
Delivered upskilling and training programmes to the value of €60.2m with a breakdown of €37.7million of Skillnet Ireland Funding and Enterprise [Employer] Contributions of €22.5 million Euros.
Here we compare the impact of traditional methods of delivery via FET Providers [Further Education and Training] HET Providers [Higher Education and Training] and Private Training Providers
|ETB- Educational and Training Boards inc. SOLAS*
|16 national ETB’s /32,000 staff.
108,793 learners in 2020
FET is for everyone, is available in every community and offers a pathway to take you as far as you want to go.
Review: This is cost positive option although accessibility is poor outside of key towns and cities and educational level of offerings is very low and timescales of delivery impede employers from choosing this option.
|HEA – College and University Networks
246,000 learners certificated in 2022**
|A high performing higher education system is an essential requirement in the development of creative, entrepreneurial people and the creation of new knowledge to support social, cultural and economic development|
|Review: In the past 3 years dramatic changes have been made to the HEA footprint with the amalgamation of Institutes of technology to deliver 5 Technical Universities. This has presented new and exciting options for learning and it is to be noted that HEA Colleges and Universities have a excellent working relationship with Skillnet Ireland and further offerings via Springboard. This does not offer larger programmes designed for enterprise instead the offering can be more for an individual educational development than an industry or employer. This is not a cost positive option.|
|Private Providers – Full cost recover method.
|The actual number of providers in this space in Ireland is projected to be approx. 500+ with numbers trained not tracked at this point.
Some providers are registered with QQI with many not undertaking QQI validation as they found this to be impractical for micro providers.
|Bridging the gap and presenting short often programmes meeting legislative requirements direct to individual and employers.|
|Review: Good access and flexibility to deliver when and where needed. Often delivery would be one-off with some options for accreditation. Poorly mapped to FET or HEA Providers for further education and training progression |
It is disappointing that the data on this provision is not centrally tracked so as it identifies the value of this provision to Lifelong Learning.
* SOLAS is the State agency that oversees the building of a world class Further Education & Training (FET) sector in Ireland
|72 Networks, 86,570- Trainees Trained
9,853- Training Programmes Run in 2021
Multiple delivery agents from across all provisions listed above.
Helping businesses in Ireland to be the best they can be, through innovative and enterprise-driven people development.
|Review: Excellent provision for sectoral employers and delivery agents. |
Regional offerings in direct competition with FET and this has proven difficult for employers to navigate like for like offerings. Cost model is more suited to larger businesses and operations and a different model would be required for Micro and SME’s. Better liaison form FET would benefit all.
Skillnet Ireland Vision forward:
- The Skillnet Ireland strategy aims are that by the end of 2025, Skillnet Ireland will have increased its investment in the Irish workforce to €100 million annually, from the current base of €52 million.
- Expand our activities, doubling the number of businesses supported by Skillnet Ireland to 30,000 annually by 2025, from our current baseline of 22,500.
- Extend the reach of our programmes over the next five years, supporting
100,000 workers every year from our current baseline of 86,570.
For the launch of the 2023 action plan, the focus of Skillnet Ireland continues to be aligned to the Strategy pledges of:
- Workforce Design
- People Development
- Strategic Innovation
Paul Healy, Chief Executive of Skillnet Ireland, commented: “To secure new productivity and innovation gains, a significant intensification of employer engagement is required. Every business large or small is facing challenges from rising costs, to the need for digital advancement, to skills gaps and the sustainability agenda. As the workforce development agency, Skillnet Ireland will expand our engagement with companies to ensure they have the talent to meet these challenges and more.”
He highlighted how speed and agility are essential components of workforce development in the 21st century.
“The Skillnet approach is based on flexibility, and the capacity to respond to new industry trends in a fast and targeted way. We look forward to leading out on the vital workforce development agenda and growing our partnerships with industry, higher education and State agencies,” he added.
WHAT IS THE IMPACT?
Impact: what has changed since the implementation, what has improved, what is the vision for the future.
For 2023 and beyond the Northwest Region is serviced with 3 Skillnet Networks, 1 regional The Rural Skillnet and Tech Northwest and Retail Skillnet Sectoral Networks based at ATU Donegal.
Sectoral and impacting the Blue C Economy, companies have access to apply to all other Sectoral Networks for support with example being: Rural Food Network, Farming and Vets Networks, Hotel Federation, and Restaurant Networks, ISME, IBEC and others. These networks focus on their industrial sectoral development and the development of companies and of personnel within these companies across the 26 counties of Ireland.
As part of our research, we conducted our own Inishowen Skillnet Review Report, “Looking back to learn for the future 2023-2025” and we found that for Inishowen the Regional Skillnet model was not the answer to the core issues, instead a joint collaborative approach utilising the skills and available training from sector specific networks better suited the needs of our local industries. This approach gives the companies access and input to the sectors they represent. For smaller, shorter programmes and individual personal and professional development courses this could be sourced from providers on the ground in Inishowen and the wider NW region.