Irish workers made the most of the pandemic last year with record numbers engaging in upskilling programmes.

Cork is skilling it!

Participation in upskilling programmes hit record levels in Ireland in 2020 with over 10,000 Cork-based employees taking part.

That’s according to the latest annual report by Skillnet Ireland which recorded a 17 per cent increase in upskilling engagement on the year before.

The report also showed a total investment of €51 million in upskilling programmes for companies across the economy in 2020.

Of the 21,695 companies Skillnet supported last year, 94 per cent were small or medium sized enterprises (SME).

Commenting on the publication of the report, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris highlighted the importance of a talented workforce in Ireland.

“Talent is at the heart of our national competitiveness. It has been instrumental in helping businesses navigate a challenging year and will be especially important in preparing businesses for future challenges such as climate change and digital transformation,” he said.

Last year, Skillnet Ireland delivered 9,110 different programmes spanning industry and professional certified courses, management development programmes, specialised upskilling, new industry and academia collaborations, and innovation and research-based projects.

Highlights for 2020 included the launch of a new five-year strategy that sets out targets to increase Skillnet’s engagement with business and industry.

The strategy set out to double the numbers participating in talent development programmes and focus on the challenges of digital transformation and climate change.

Paul Healy, Chief Executive, Skillnet Ireland, said: “2020 was a year where we blended challenge with ambition. Together with our industry partners, Skillnet Ireland responded swiftly to deliver impact when it was needed most for the business community.

“We supported over 21,000 companies as they remodelled their businesses, embraced digitalisation, adapted to new ways of working, and navigated a myriad of new challenges,” he said.

In 2020, Skillnet Ireland also introduced several new national upskilling schemes to enable leaders and managers to adapt their businesses to new ways of operating.

These schemes included ReBound - ReBuilding Business and MentorsWork, a mentoring programme for owners and managers of SMEs in Ireland, and Skills Connect, a scheme to help workers severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic to reskill quickly and secure new job opportunities in high growth.

Commenting at the launch of the annual report, Brendan McGinty, Chairperson, Skillnet Ireland said it was heartening to see the fundamental role skills and talent has played in helping Irish businesses to survive and grow in an unprecedented year.

“I am proud to say that through our deep industry roots and our agility, Skillnet Ireland supported a record number of companies and individuals to navigate the most testing circumstance seen for many years,” he said.

For more information and to see the full report, visit