Minister Harris designates Skillnet Ireland to lead workforce development for small and medium businesses

Minister for Further and Higher  Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD has today (December 16th) confirmed Skillnet Ireland’s leadership role working in partnership with small and medium businesses to meet their talent, skills and workforce development needs.


Ireland’s international reputation and profile as an innovative, agile and high-performing economy is critically dependent on the quality of its workforce. 


This demands a robust and durable supply of talent and highly skilled workers.    


The recent Government White Paper on Enterprise Strategy 2022-2030 highlighted the need to achieve this – including by building on Skillnet Ireland’s enterprise networks to drive workforce development.


Minister Harris said: “We are a knowledge-based economy, our people are the key asset that can secure the future success of our enterprise sector.


“We must continue to nurture a workforce that is technologically advanced and highly skilled, with the confidence to seize the many opportunities of the digital and green transitions, and to win further international investment.”


The Minister continued: “I am committed to this crucial agenda and today, in response to the Enterprise White Paper, I am  reinforcing Skillnet Ireland’s mandate as a Government of Ireland agency under the aegis of my Department, dedicated to ensuring greater participation in, and engagement with, learning opportunities across Ireland’s workforce.


Skillnet Ireland’s mission will be to further strengthen and future-proof Ireland’s workforce, building stronger partnerships with the tertiary education system to ensure workers are equipped with the essential skills, knowledge and capabilities for a world of work being transformed by technology.”     


Skillnet Ireland Chairperson Brendan McGinty said: “Enterprise-led talent development, where companies have a direct role in determining what is needed, is an indispensable component of a modern, agile and diversified skills system. 


“Over the past 22 years, Skillnet Ireland has developed a specific, specialised and highly effective model, engaging directly with companies and industry groups to inform and address talent needs.


“Today’s announcement marks a significant milestone in Ireland’s industrial development, where once again we put the ingenuity, tenacity and talent of our people to the forefront.”


The European Commission and the OECD have identified the Skillnet Ireland model as a best practice public-private cooperation example for workforce development and a means of incentivising SME investment in skills.


In June 2021 Skillnet Ireland and IDA Ireland launched a strategic talent development partnership. The partnership is aimed at supporting FDI companies who are looking to attract and retain talent to drive business growth.


Paul Healy, Chief Executive of Skillnet Ireland said: “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 added: “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.”