Skills and in-work training essential to small firms' growth

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Small firms emerge from survival mode and focus on capacity-building
    National Skills Strategy 2015-2025 must focus on in-work training and upskilling for a growing economy
      SFA 2015 Training Survey shows that time and cost remain the biggest barriers to engaging in training

      In relation to the SFA submission to the Government's new National Skills Strategy for 2015-2020, Linda Barry, Assistant Director of the Small Firms Association (SFA), commented: “Training and skills programmes that have been effective over the past number of years are not necessarily fit-for-purpose as the economy shifts from crisis to recovery to growth. More of the National Training Fund must be made available for in-work training to close the gulf that has opened up between Ireland and our EU counterparts. Only 6.2% of employed persons in Ireland participate in lifelong learning, compared with a European average of 11.4%.”

      Launching the results of the SFA 2015 Training Survey, Ms Barry said that the responses demonstrated that the recovery is finally being felt by small businesses. “The results of this survey clearly show that small firms are emerging from the ‘survival mode’ of the last seven years and focusing on capacity-building, upskilling and attracting new talent. The post-crisis business landscape is very different from what existed before and small firms recognise that well-trained management and staff are key to the future success of the business.”

      The survey demonstrates widespread recognition of the value of training for small firms. Results showed that:
      • 85% of small companies have undertaken training in the 12 months to September 2015. This figure was highest in Munster at 97% and lowest in Ulster at 43%.
      • One third of small companies say that they have a formal training budget set aside each year.
      • Small companies prefer formal training delivered by external providers, although respondents also recognised the importance of on the job training provided by managers and colleagues.

      Ms. Barry continued: “The main barriers to small firms engaging in training are time and cost. Managers feel that they cannot afford the time away from their business and that releasing their employees for training is too disruptive. Despite these concerns, online training courses do not appeal to the majority of respondents.”

      In conclusion, Ms Barry stated "A particular focus must be given by Government to management capacity. Half of all small firms fail in the first 5 years, but OECD research shows that this could be reduced by half if significant investment in management capacity and development were undertaken. This should be a primary focus of the National Skills Strategy and the National Training Fund allocations, as it will have clear results on increased job maintenance and creation."

      Ends

      Editor’s notes:
      The SFA 2015 Training Survey yielded 898 responses from a sample of 3,000 SFA members companies.

      The full SFA submission on the National Skills Strategy 2015-2025 is available on the SFA website here.

      For any queries or further comment, please contact: Linda Barry, SFA Assistant Director, Tel: 087 1472811 or 01 6051626 or e-mail: linda.barry@sfa.ie . Tweet: @SFA_Irl
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