Minister Harris and Minister English welcome report ‘Leading the Way’ by Expert Group on Future Skills Needs

22 Oct, 2020

Minister for Further Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD, and Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail, Damien English, TD, have welcomed the publication a project report lead by academics and researchers at TU Dublin.

The Expert Group on Future Skills Needs, which advises the Government on current and future skills needs of the economy and their impact on Ireland’s enterprise and employment growth, has today published a report on SME Management Skills, entitled Leading the Way.

Team members at TU Dublin, which led the project and drafted the report at TU Dublin, were Project Leader, Dr Deirdre McQuillan; Professor Tom Cooney; Dr Lorraine Sweeney; Dr Ciara Nolan; Dr Wael Rashwan and Osa Godwin-Osaghae (PhD). The report, funded by the European Commission's DG Reform, highlights how essential management skills are to business productivity, resilience and survival. Research has shown firms that invest in management development grow faster, survive longer and innovate more effectively, and improving management skills is seen by the OECD as a key lever in improving Irish SMEs’ productivity performance.

The main findings from the report are:

  • SME owners and managers must cease thinking of management development as merely important and start seeing it as a top strategic priority and an investment in the future of their business.
  • While flexibility is important, given managers’ busy schedules, research routinely finds that formal approaches to both training and strategising yield the biggest benefits: ‘Time = Commitment’.
  • There is already a huge range of management training programmes available in Ireland, many of them partly funded and supported by the State … but only a fraction of Irish SMEs are taking advantage of this. More need to connect and participate.

Commenting on the launch of the report, Minister Harris said:

“There is already so much going on in this space, with more than 1,100 management training courses available in 2019, training more than 81,000 managers. But large swathes of the SME population do not connect with these resources or take advantage of the opportunities and supports that are already there. I encourage all SME managers to take note and to make management development a priority for 2021. This is not a time to pull back on investment in management training. It is a time for SME managers to renew their commitment to world-class management skills and practices.”

Minister English added:

“Investment in management development is a commitment to the future. The challenges facing the business sector right now make world-class management skills even more of an imperative for Irish SMEs. SMEs should make it a priority to identify their management skills needs and plan to fill those gaps. I encourage all SMEs to seek out the supports that are already available - contact your local LEO, Skillnet Ireland or your representative organisation for advice.”

Tony Donohoe, Chair of the EGFSN said:

“There is evidence to show that firms that invest in management development grow faster. The EGFSN report ‘Leading the Way’ finds that 88% of firms say that developing management skills is an important strategic priority, but 49% don’t have a formal budget to develop management and leadership. This must change: SMEs that engage in formal management skills training in Ireland have better outcomes in terms of productivity, growth, employment and survival.”

With SMEs accounting for almost 70% of total employment in the Irish business economy, improving their performance is vital in helping to lift the whole economy. This report finds that the attitude of SME owners and managers to management development is central and recommends that management development must be a top strategic priority for all SMEs in Ireland.

Find the full report ‘Leading the Way’ at