Mid-West’s unique, employer-led response to tackle Covid-19 job crisis

  • Limerick City Riverfront

A unique Mid-West collaboration of public and private organisations across Clare, Limerick and Tipperary has launched a Covid-19 economic recovery programme that includes a retraining programme for thousands affected by the economic fallout of the pandemic and the strategic repositioning of the region for long-term growth.

Leading multi-national and indigenous employers, as well as state and semi-state entities, have come together in a unique regional response to the economic implosion created by the Coronavirus impact.

The ‘Regional Covid-19 Response Group’ has come up with the first regional economic plan to mirror the public health response that has taken shape across every region. The plan is built on an immediate response by identifying online retraining programmes to specifically target those displaced in the tourism, retail, hospitality and allied sectors, as well as a longer-term strategy to identify and maximise regional development opportunities. 

This will be based on empowering individuals and communities, through digital technologies, to accelerate the economic, social and environmental transition to a resilient and thriving carbon neutral region by 2026, making the Mid-West the most digitally connected and environmentally sustainable peripheral region in the EU.

Initial actions that are being undertaken by the Regional Covid-19 Response Group are:

  • An immediate online offering specifically targeting the most adversely affected sectors of the regional economy, with the first 100 students on board by the start of May
  • A medium-term plan to identify training supports for those temporarily displaced but still retained by their former employers, with the first intervention in place by Monday May 11th
  • Capturing all data and insights to inform government post Covid-19 with regard to the level of additional training/upskilling required in the region and inform any regional application for funding from either national or EU Solidarity Programmes post Coronavirus to support the strategic objectives of the region

The group was initiated by Barry O’Sullivan, VP of Manufacturing J&J Vision Care; Denis Kelly, former Global Senior Vice President of Services for Dell Technologies and now president of DK Strategic Solutions and Eamonn Murphy, Managing Director of Irish Centre for Business Excellence. It comprises over 30 members drawn from the IDA, Enterprise Ireland, University of Limerick (UL), Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT) Mary Immaculate College (MIC), Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board (LCETB), Clare, Limerick and Tipperary local authorities, Limerick Chamber of Commerce, a range of multi-national and indigenous enterprises located in the region and the unions.

The group’s retraining focus is on providing training and support to enable those affected by the economic impact of the virus to either return to their original employment and, if not, to enable transition into other employment.

A key element of an agreed charter for the group is that all processes are industry-led. This will ensure, in particular, that upskilling programmes undertaken are tailored towards retraining for sectors with strong employment prospects as the economy recovers.

Said Chair of the Regional Covid-19 Response Group Dr Eamonn Murphy, Professor Emeritus UL: “Pre Covid-19 there were 220,00 people employed in Clare, Limerick and Tipperary and 48,000 were in tourism, retail, hospitality and allied sectors. These sectors have been dealt a massive body blow that is threatening to undermine the incredible economic success of this region over the past decade. The establishment of the Regional Covid-19 Response Group and the strides already made in such a short time reflects the unrivaled degree of cohesion and collaboration here in the Mid-West and that will give us a very significant edge in spearheading the Covid-19 recovery. There’s a huge can-do spirit here from top down that is, not alone going to get us through this very difficult patch, but position us as a European best-practice region for the future.”

Denis Kelly, Overall Director of the Programme and chair of one learning group, said that from a retraining perspective, programmes selected have been employer led. “For those who have lost their jobs permanently, we have talked to employers in growth sectors and they have told us what retraining will be required of people whose jobs will not be restored. For example, the tacit skills acquired in retailing and hospitality are pre-requisite skills to function successfully in the customer experience business environment,” he added.

Said Pat Daly, Chief Executive of Limerick City and County Council on behalf of the local authorities: “The collaboration that dragged us out of the economic crash at the end of the 2000s and put us on an unprecedented growth path that we’ve been on since, is serving us well in this time of need. We showed remarkable resilience back then and we learned a lot of lessons on the road to recovery, among the biggest being that any response to a crisis has to be employer led and that’s exactly what is happening now.”

Said Dick Meaney, Chair of the committee developing the strategic vision for the region: “This is a hugely difficult time for so many but problems are met with solutions and the smart companies and, indeed, smart regions will even look beyond that, to where there may be opportunities. We have come together as a group to deal with the immediate problem in front of us but we are not going to waste the opportunity. Instead, we are going to formulate a strategic vision for our region and it will be built around this becoming the most digitally connected peripheral region in EU but one with the lowest carbon footprint. That will underpin pretty much every sector here long into the future. It’s ambitious but we have the intent, the expertise and the experience around the table to make this happen.”

The Regional Covid-19 Response Group would like to acknowledge the considerable  and prompt support given to Covid-19 Emergency Response team  by  Innovate Limerick, LCETB, ICBE, Limerick Chamber, Skillnet Ireland, LEDP, UL, LIT, MIC, Limerick City and County Council, and Clare and Tipperary County Councils, Denis Kelly and especially the almost 70 volunteers who have provided tremendous support to the various  committees and work streams since the first meeting of the group held in March 26th.

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