SMEs that participate in Skillnets training networks are well equipped to address skills gaps within their business. That’s one of the findings of a new evaluation of Skillnets, the agency working with businesses in Ireland to address their current and future skills needs.
The independent evaluation by Indecon International Economic Consultants, published today (30.09.14), found that Skillnets exceeded targets set for it by the Department of Education and Skills (DES) for 2013, while remaining within budget. The report also found that the majority of participants in Skillnets’ training programmes last year were from the SME sector.
Skillnets operates four main training programmes:
· The Training Networks Programme (TNP), supporting training across a wide range of industry sectors and geographical regions.
· The Finuas Networks Programme, supporting specialised training in the international financial services sector.
· ManagementWorks, supporting a range of management development training opportunities along with mentoring support for SME managers.
· The Job-Seekers Support Programme (JSSP), supporting training courses and work placements for unemployed people
Impact on SME Sector
According to the Indecon report, the majority of participants in the TNP, Finuas and ManagementWorks programmes were from the SME sector, with participation in each programme broken down as follows:
· 93 per cent of the 9,283 companies participating in TNP were SMEs.
· 90 per cent of the 344 companies participating in Finuas came from the SME sector.
· Under ManagementWorks – which was specifically designed to support the SME sector – 10,287 training days were provided to 838 trainees in 2013.
Commenting today, Alan Nuzum, CEO of Skillnets, said: “The training schemes operated under our Training Networks Programme (TNP) focus on transferability of skills; fostering company diversification or transferability within a sector or to another sector; facilitating increased performance and growth in priority sectors; and enhancing the general competency skills of lifelong learners. Because of these focus areas, it is no surprise that they have large appeal for SMEs.
“Our training is also attractive to SMEs because it is cost-effective and designed with the needs and demands of businesses in mind. Eighty-two per cent of the companies that participated in TNP training last year indicated that it had a high, or very high, impact on addressing skills gaps within their business, and 90 per cent indicated that training was effective in meeting their overall expectations.
“Traditionally, training and upskilling have not been prioritised within the SME sector, so we are delighted that this independent evaluation shows our training networks are having an impact within small and medium businesses throughout Ireland.”
In compiling the evaluation report, Indecon undertook an extensive programme of primary research among training network managers, promoters, member companies and trainees, through a series of separate survey streams. In addition to evaluating Skillnets’ TNP, Finuas and ManagementWorks programme, the report also assessed the organisation’s work with job-seekers.
While Skillnets’ core remit remains focused on the provision of training to individuals who are in employment, training for job-seekers now represents 23 per cent of overall activity for the organisation.
Skillnets aims to provide a minimum of 10 per cent of the overall places on its main TNP and Finuas programmes to unemployed persons, with eligible individuals participating in training alongside employed trainees on a zero direct-cost basis. In addition, it operates the Job-Seekers Support Programme (JSSP), designed specifically to provide training based on industry needs and work placements with employers.
Within the TNP and Finuas programmes, close to 65,000 training days were provided to over 7,300 job-seekers in 2013.
Skillnets’ Job-Seekers Support Programme (JSSP) includes a training and work placement option. The key achievements and features of the JSSP during 2013 were as follows:
· 47 networks operated under the JSSP, with expenditure of €2.8 million (€2.67 million in public funding).
· A total of 48,447 training days were provided to 3,027 trainees (four per cent ahead of Skillnets’ target).
· 47 per cent of JSSP trainees during 2013 were previously unemployed for one year or more.
· 42 per cent of trainees were previously educated at below primary degree level.
· 47 per cent of trainees progressed into employment.
As well as highlighting the positive impact that Skillnets-supported training is having on Ireland’s SME sector and on job-seekers, the report also detailed how Skillnets remained within its budget last year. Across all programmes network expenditure totalled €23.1 million. The majority of expenditure took place within the 59 TNP networks (€17.2 million or 74.4 per cent of the total), while the Finuas networks accounted for €1.5 million (6.5 per cent of the total) and ManagementWorks represented €1.66 million.
The full independent evaluation report from Indecon is available to download at: www.skillnets.ie/publications/evaluation-skillnets-programmes-2013.