An industry group representing small to medium sized businesses in Ireland is proposing the introduction of a certification process to professionalise the SME sector. The framework for the ‘Blue Cert’ qualification for SMEs has been developed in a collaboration between ISME, Network Ireland and Griffith College and aims to increase the SME sector’s resilience and equip it to drive productivity in the Irish economy.
Based on the Teagasc Specific Purpose Certificate in Farm Administration (‘Green Cert’) already in operation in the farming sector, ISME submitted its proposal for a ‘Blue Cert’ for SMEs to Government in 2019. In this proposal, economist, Jim Power states: ‘Productivity among Irish SMEs is static or falling, as is profitability. This is occurring at a time when there is an increasing trend towards protectionism globally; when our nearest and largest trading partner is leaving the single market, and when US (and EU Commission) trade and corporation tax policies threaten the long-term viability of our traditional industrial policies based around foreign multi-national corporations. If we are to scale our indigenous enterprise base, it is imperative that we address latent deficits in managerial skills within our SMEs.’
Neil McDonnell, Chief Executive, ISME said: ‘The Irish SME sector significantly lags the multinational sector in terms of productivity. This gap has been widely reported on by OECD, and the National Competitiveness Council. Both the Workplace Relations Commission and the Health and Safety Authority have identified basic deficits in the knowledge of employment law and the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 which must be addressed. The best way to quickly upskill management in the indigenous enterprise sector is to encourage a rapid uptake in skills training and life-long learning.’
Louisa Meehan, President of Network Ireland said: ‘We strongly support the idea of a ‘Blue Cert’. An industry-supported course that provides training in relevant aspects of running a business would be hugely attractive to our membership of more than 1300 women across the country. It makes sense that a well-rounded foundation would help to nurture a strong and resilient SME sector in Ireland.’
In its proposal to Government, ISME outlines the following objectives for a Blue Cert training programme:
- To create an SME sector that is dynamic and innovative;
- To broaden the enterprise and export base to ensure that the economy is resilient, diversified and adaptable;
- To support the internationalisation and market diversification of Irish enterprise in order to make the economy more resilient to external market shocks, such as Brexit;
- To grow the capacity of local firms to absorb and implement new technologies;
- To improve management quality and training in smaller enterprises in order to foster innovation in order to evolve into new products, new markets and new sectors.
Dr Tomás Mac Eochagáin, Director of Academic Programmes at Griffith College said: ‘Building a network of professionally trained experienced managers will greatly facilitate the resilience and growth of Ireland’s SME sector, allowing it to compete nationally and internationally. Griffith College has a history of strong established relationships with industry and welcomes this opportunity to work with ISME and Network Ireland to deliver certified training to meet the needs of SME managers.’
’In its proposal to Government, ISME identifies the key skills that would need to be developed through a Level 6 QQI course covering: business and commercial law, the tax system, wages, technology absorption and software packages, engineering skills, marketing skills, treasury skills, research and development capability, staff training, market research and intergenerational business transfer. It is proposed that the course would be incentivised in the same manner as the ‘Green Cert’. In its proposal, ISME states that ‘schemes, grants and tax treatment could be dependent on having the QQI qualification.’