Private and public sectors devise recovery programme for midwest

Industry leaders partner with education bodies to ensure employees equipped to return to work

Between Limerick, Clare and Tipperary, 220,000 people were in employment prior to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. Photograph: iStock

Between Limerick, Clare and Tipperary, 220,000 people were in employment prior to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. Photograph: iStock

 

A group of industry leaders in the midwest have gathered together with Government agencies and education institutions to launch an economic recovery programme for the region which includes retraining options for those affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Led by former Dell global senior vice-president of services Denis Kelly, the “regional Covid-19 response group” has devised an economic plan for Limerick, Clare and Tipperary to mirror the public health response across the country.

“I had a very strong view that we were going to end up in a very bad situation economically if we didn’t get ahead on the planning,” Mr Kelly told The Irish Times, noting that the aim was to get education institutions involved to help devise programmes that were led by the needs of employers.

Shutdown

In the three counties, 220,000 people were employed before the pandemic caused a nationwide shutdown. Now, about 48,300 are receiving the Covid-19 pandemic payment from Government of which 65 per cent were previously employed in the retail and hospitality sectors.

The response group has sought to focus on providing training and support to those people to help them either return to their original employment or to enable transition into other work.

Also involved in the group is Johnson and Johnson Vision Care vice-president of manufacturing Barry O’Sullivan, and Irish Centre for Business Excellence managing director Eamonn Murphy. Additionally, the IDA, Enterprise Ireland, the University of Limerick, Limerick Institute of Technology, local training boards and local authorities are involved in the response effort.

In particular, the group, which is operating with no funding, is aiming to see an industry-led response with upskilling programmes tailored toward retraining for sectors with strong employment prospects.

“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 prerequisite skills to function successfully in the customer experience business environment,” said Mr Kelly.

Response

Mr Kelly noted that there has been an excellent response locally, with hundreds of people starting a training course this week alone. But, he said, “it has to feed into a national programme”. Mr Kelly noted that the success of the midwest programme can be viewed as a pilot with other regions launching soon after to ensure that there is not a disconnect between the regions.

“The ultimate aim is to get as many people back to gainful employment as quickly as possible, recognising that we’re going into a new world,” he said.

Dr Eamonn Murphy, UL professor emeritus and chairman of the regional Covid-19 response group, added: “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.”