Despite promising developments on the vaccine front, it is clear that the COVID-19 crisis is far from over, and that governments and businesses will be kept on their toes managing the economic impact of the pandemic for some time to come. However, despite these changing and changed times, a comforting constant in the Republic is the Irish Government's broad support for both businesses and individuals to adapt and find new sources of growth and opportunity.
While the immediate impact of COVID-19 on sectors such as hospitality and traditional retail has been devastating, and the ongoing impact is as yet unknown, sectors with a strong online offering have received an unexpected boost from the pandemic. This has drawn the attention of the Government, keen to help individuals to train and reskill in order to work in these growth areas and to assist businesses in capitalising on their online presence or tailoring their product offering.
Various government agencies have fine-tuned and redirected their training and skills development support programmes in response to the COVID crisis, and it is to these that we now turn.
Government agency Enterprise Ireland's offerings are more targeted at businesses than individuals, and cover both COVID-specific supports and general programmes for SMEs.
One of the key schemes is the Strategic Consultancy Grant, which provides funding of up to 50% of eligible costs (up to a maximum of EUR35,000) for businesses looking to hire a consultant for the development of new strategic initiatives.
The Key Manager Grant, meanwhile, provides partial funding for the hiring of managers, such as Chief Financial Officers, Chief Technology Officers, or R&D Managers. Both grants are available all year round, and applications can be made via the Enterprise Ireland online application system, having consulted with a Development Advisor.
Local Enterprise Offices and Regional Skills
Ireland's Local Enterprise Offices also have a range of offerings, including training webinars (on topics such as COVID safety in the workplace, HR issues, cashflow, and available financial supports), and video contributions from experts on areas such as remote management of staff and boosting the digital presence of a business in the current times. These are also hosting various training programmes, workshops, and networking events.
In addition to the network of LEOs, there are also nine regional skills fora, which aim to help employers to access educational and training resources in their area. Initiatives specifically for businesses impacted by the pandemic are available, and interested parties are invited to complete an engagement support form via their regional office to find out what assistance is available.
While the initiatives discussed above are mostly aimed at businesses seeking to grow, or to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on their operations, to support individuals, the Skills Connect programme was developed.
Offered by Skillnet Ireland, another government agency, Skills Connect offers workers from sectors such as retail, tourism, and hospitality the chance to train and reskill in primarily online growth areas, such as cybersecurity, software programming, online marketing, and online customer service, as well as other client-facing activities.
Skills Connect training is available for those in receipt of welfare payments (including those specific to the pandemic), including former business owners and sole traders, and those seeking to return to the workforce.
So be you a corporate or an individual, there are supports available to provide assistance during these challenging times.
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