Chambers Ireland today (22 September 2020) launches new data on engagement with training and life-long learning between the months of March and June. The survey polled businesses and employees to find out whether businesses were upskilling in response to COVID-19, and if so, how and what they were training in.

The data found that:

  • 1021 Businesses participated in the skills questionnaire
  • 867 were employers
  • 69% of businesses which have employees conducted training over the Covid-19 lockdown period
  • 52% of business operators participated in training during the Covid-19 lockdown period, including 68% of sole traders
  • Those who are working from home were mostly likely to engage with training
  • Outside of general CPD, the most popular topics for training included COVID-19 related issues, technical skills development, management skills and marketing

Speaking in response to the findings, Chambers Ireland President Siobhán Kinsella said,

“The data we are publishing today gives us useful insights into business behaviour. Firstly, it is heartening that despite the constraints on business during the lockdown and COVID-19 restrictions that so many businesses invested in their employees by engaging in upskilling and training. Through refreshing expertise and learning new skills, businesses took positive steps towards making their staff and their business more resilient in a time of crisis.

What really stands out is the kinds of areas that businesses were investing time to upskill in. For employees that received training: Covid-19 associated training was the most common. Through this, businesses tackle the challenges that Covid-19 pose to their activity ranging from PPE training and hygiene skills to stress management and mindfulness training.

Next most important was technical training which saw a major investment in digital skills. Management was another important area particularly for business which had to transform their activity to support remote working.

Digital and management training were areas that were noted for attention in previous Future Jobs Ireland reports as requiring targeted interventions, Covid-19 highlighted the deficiencies in these areas, and businesses have responded.

Another area of innovation has been multimodal training. Businesses are simultaneously using different methods for training for their employees in particular areas. This demonstrates that flexibility in how we offer training options to employers if they are going to be able to avail of them. One-size-fits all has never been the right approach, but the complexity of the workplace under Covid-19 means that both trainers and funders will need to alter their approaches.

With times as uncertain as they are, and the rapid transition to remote and flexible working, it is so important that our SME managers have access to training and supports. There is an opportunity to use the National Training Fund to both improve digital literacy and create more online trainings for businesses seeking to adapt during these challenging times.

The newest Solas Strategy recognises this need, and programmes like Skills to Advance and Skills to Compete, have huge potential. Through strategic engagement with industry and business representative bodies, to tackle skills gaps and prevent patterns of long-term unemployment from emerging.

The adaptability of our workforce to switch to online learning also shows what we can do as a workforce and an economy if we can improve digital literacy across the board. Despite improvements in recent years, Ireland still ranks below the EU average when it comes to digital skills. If we could improve digital literacy, we could do so much more to improve the productivity and competitiveness of the businesses operating in our economy

Budget 2021 must ensure appropriate resources are available to improve digital skills, deliver digital training supports to in-working training, and to those who are but of work due to COVID-19. Short, sharp, targeted interventions can ensure that those who have lost their jobs are supported to transition to other sectors. A wider variety of digital courses for those in work will ensure that existing jobs are more resilient to ongoing turbulence in the economy.”