The COVID-19 pandemic has had a far reaching impact on Irish businesses. To support recovery, the Education and Training Boards (ETBs) are engaging with employers to provide relevant and agile training to upskill and reskill employees to meet the demands of the evolving work environment.
Skills to Advance is setting ambitious targets for 2021 to reach more employers and employees to sustain employment and grow business. Building on the success of 2020, the focus of activity for this year will be to broker stronger links with enterprise, especially SMEs. By responding effectively to critical business needs, ETBs are proving to be a key resource for local enterprise.
Featured in this newsletter are examples of innovative ETB training interventions to support local businesses into the future.
Innovation through Collaboration
The Innovation through Collaboration Fund, 2019-2021, was created to embed innovation in the delivery of the Skills to Advance initiative. The selected 10 innovation projects are cultivating strategic alliances across ETBs, industry partners and enterprise stakeholders, covering innovative design and delivery, recognition of prior learning (RPL) and enterprise engagement. One of these is the NZEB project featured below.
FET builds a green future
Nearly zero-energy buildings (NZEB) have very high energy performance, with the low amount of energy that they require coming mostly from renewable sources. The EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive came into effect in 2018 and requires new and existing builds to reach NZEB standard over a phased period.
Waterford and Wexford ETB (WWETB), in partnership with Kildare and Wicklow ETB and Limerick and Clare ETB, responded to the Innovation through Collaboration Fund call, to undertake a project exploring how to enhance its NZEB programmes through innovative delivery modes and how to continue delivering high standard training at scale.
The three key objectives of the project are on track for achievement:
Develop a Train the Trainer special award, to address the shortage of NZEB trainers. Seventeen ETB staff are due to complete their training in May 2021.
Convert the 3-day trades courses to 2-days blended and 1 day in the training centre, to make it easier for tradespeople to be released by their employer for training.
Explore the use of Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Cross Reality to enhance WWETB’s retrofit training. Use of these technologies will allow learners to virtually explore the retrofitting of old buildings.
The project is part of a much bigger innovative venture by WWETB, ongoing since 2017, which involves a broad range of key stakeholders, working together to address the NZEB upskilling and training needs of the construction industry.
Looking to the future, this component of the Innovation through Collaboration project is designed to be scaled across the ETBs and will have national significance. In the context of climate change, this WWETB NZEB project puts FET to the forefront in addressing the key challenges that arise in construction, to allow Ireland deliver on its green targets.
COVID-19 and ongoing lockdown restrictions have grounded the travel and tourism industry. However, an SME travel agency with 200 staff contacted the Enterprise Engagement Unit of Marino College of Further Education, one of City of Dublin ETB’s (CDETB) colleges based in the heart of the city. Embracing this opportunity to upskill their employees through the Skills to Advance initiative, the SME has engaged in accredited training programmes tailored to the needs of their individual employees, to prepare the business for take-off once the travel industry reopens.
The employer, supported by Marino College, undertook an occupational skills profiling exercise which, along with input and feedback from staff, informed CDETB’s training response. Through ongoing engagement between the college’s Employer Engagement Co-ordinator and the company’s Human Resource Manager, the employees’ upskilling needs were identified. As a result, multiple training options are currently being provided through a very successful collaboration.
Many employees have completed or are currently undertaking training hosted by Marino College, with some also enrolling on SOLAS eCollege online programmes. Right across the organization, from customer service staff to corporate sales teams, middle management and employees are achieving certification in modules such as Digital Marketing, IT, Excel and Leadership and Management, which will enhance their skillset and enable them to respond when the upturn in the economy comes.
Enhancing SME digital capability
In October 2020, Laois Offaly ETB launched a webinar series, ‘Future Proof Your Business’, to showcase how SMEs can increase business performance and productivity through digitalisation.
Each webinar was delivered by subject matter experts, with diverse topics covered including Process Improvement through Technology; Digital Marketing; Cyber Security and Data Analytics. Each webinar featured a local business as a case study, sharing their experience, learning and advice.
SMEs engaged with enthusiasm, with numbers growing from 33 attendees in the first webinar to 106 in the most recent and a total of 425 over the full webinar series. The series has generated employer requests for training in areas such as Digital Marketing, Social Media Skills and Lean Management, to assist their enterprises in digital transformation.
While LOETB organised the webinar series as a support to local enterprise during COVID, the main focus was to create a demand for FET digital programmes and to encourage local SMEs to embrace the digital transition process. Building on the success of this initiative, the series will continue monthly in 2021. Follow the story on LinkedIn.
As part of the Mid-West regional response to the pending closure of the Molex Group in Shannon, the Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board (LCETB) in conjunction with the Regional Skills Manager, the University of Limerick, and the Limerick Institute of Technology responded as part of a network of education providers to provide upskilling opportunities for the Molex employees. Through the Skills to Advance initiative, upskilling supports were provided to over 40 employees who completed courses such as Lean Six Sigma and Inventory Control. Fiona O’Rourke, Business Improvement Specialist at Molex, thanking LCETB, said “In a time of uncertainty for Molex employees, the support received from Patricia Haugh and the LCETB team was invaluable. An information centre was created in Molex in early 2020 and for four weeks, guidance counsellors met with
over 100 employees, providing information on the next steps for upskilling and future employment opportunities. Feedback from employees was extremely positive and many went on to complete Skills to Advance courses through LCETB.”
This collaboration between regional education providers and enterprise is a model example of what can be achieved by a partnership approach to upskilling and reskilling to ensure ongoing employment in emerging work areas.
Social media drives sales
Tipperary ETB partnered with the Tipperary Food Producers Network to design a Multimedia for Social Media programme, to help businesses leverage the power of social media marketing, to increase online sales and drive growth.
The aim of the programme is to equip SMEs with the necessary skills to design and create advertisements for business, using Adobe Photoshop professional editing software. Employees learn how to plan, capture and create their own videos using video design software. The videos and images can then be used as part of a digital marketing campaign on Facebook, YouTube and other online platforms.
Over 20 small companies engaged in the training in 2020, with delivery online over 12-14 weeks on a one-day per week basis, to suit learner needs. Sophie Imarzouk, owner of Exploring Languages for Kids, said:
“It has opened a whole new world for me and I can now create beautiful adverts. I highly recommend it to anybody for their business. It is boosting mine and makes my ads more interesting!”
The next Multimedia course, starting in March 2021, will have an additional component on search engine optimisation, based on enterprise feedback. Through this programme, TETB is helping local businesses build their brands online, drive sales growth and optimize future opportunities.
A group of employees from businesses in Mayo, Sligo and Leitrim, recently celebrated achievement of the ILM Leadership and Management Certificate. Representatives of key partners, IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, Regional Skills Fora and SOLAS, joined an online ceremony, hosted by Mayo, Sligo and Leitrim ETB (MSLETB), to acknowledge the success of the employees and the commitment of their employers to the programme.
Arleen McDonagh, a newly appointed Production Supervisor with Ophardt Hygiene, said: “The course was of immediate practical benefit to me in my new role, particularly the module on motivating staff. I can see the direct benefits for the business as staff are more engaged and motivated, which will enhance their performance and productivity.”
John O’Malley, COO at Ophardt Hygiene, commented: “We chose the Leadership and Management programme as the training was practical and immediately implementable in our organisation. It also provided a recognised level 6 qualification. The delivery was accommodated around our business requirements, with minimal impact on operations.”
Feedback from other employers who engaged with the programme was equally positive, in terms of relevance of the modules and the significance of assignments in bringing fresh thinking to the business, which will contribute to company success into the future.
MSLETB Employer Engagement Officer for Sligo/Leitrim, Aidan Tighe, found the programme to be very useful in creating sustained relationships with businesses, as most employers returned to enrol other employees in upskilling opportunities through Skills to Advance.
Like to contribute to our eNewsletter?
If your ETB has a story about a Skills to Advance programme and its participants or an event that you would like to see featured in the next issue of this eNewsletter please email [email protected] or [email protected] - the deadline for submissions to be considered for our April issue is Tuesday 23rd March.
For Skills to Advance contacts in the ETBs click here.