In the Mid-West region, our highly globalised nature can be seen in our reliance on international tourism and the activity of foreign-owned multi-national enterprises that make a significant contribution to our employment market.
The Irish Central Bank estimate that – assuming the impact of COVID-19 is confined to a 12-week period and that economic activity, both within Ireland and globally, will begin to recover in Q3 of 2020 – unemployment will peak at 25% and remain above 10% by year-end, with GDP falling by more than 8%.
Current Situation in the Mid-West
- As of April 21st 2020 there are 54,800 people across Clare, Limerick and Tipperary in receipt of the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment.
- These are additional to the 18,533 persons that were already in receipt a Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection payment
- With a regional labour force of 226,900, a conservative estimate of current unemployment levels in the Mid-West exceeds 30%.
- While no regional breakdown is currently available, nationally 40,000 companies have registered for Revenue’s Temporary Covid-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme.
Prompted and driven 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 Irish Centre for Business Excellence, the Mid-West Regional Covid-19 Employment Response steering committee engaged with industry leaders across a number of sectors to devise a short, medium and long-term response to the unprecedented employment challenges we face. Under the leadership of Mr Eamonn Murphy, it was agreed that the best intervention would be to provide training and support that would enable those affected by the economic impact of the virus to either return to their original employment and, if not, to enable them transition into other employment. Hospitality and retail specifically will be the most severely impacted by this crisis.
- In the short-term, we are providing a broad set of online training and upskilling to our colleagues in the retail and hospitality sectors. This training will enable them to return to work in safer, more hygienic environments with improved skilles to manage customer needs. Courses range from Infection Prevention and Control, to Team Leadership & People Management, Digital Marketing, Customer Experience and ECDL-ICDL. During this phase, and in order to test the operating model, a 10-week pilot programme consisting of approximately 300 participants has been initiated. On successful completion of the pilot, a one-to-many scaling exercise will be required to reach our intended goal of upskilling 20,000 people.
- The medium-term activities are co-ordinated by Dr Eamonn Murphy, Director ICBE. If we are to fully utilise the benefits of Distance Learning and particularly the impact of modern technology, we must re-evaluate how best we can absorb learning within our companies. The strategy here is to identify what skills gaps and employment trends emerge in the SME / Multinational sector as a result of changes to the global economy. We plan to future-proof careers of colleagues in this sector by enabling them to have the skills to embrace innovation and technological change in their sectors. Diversification of the local economy and the agility of its workforce will drive inward investment along with the commercialisation of local and regional enterprise. Initiated by ICBE, a working group of J&J Vision Care, Cook Medical, Coca-Cola, Boston Scientific Cork, Northern Trust and Bausch & Lomb are collaborating in assessing how e-moderation can contribute to more efficient upskilling post Covid-19. On May 11th a cohort comprising of up to five representatives from each company started a level 9 online 3 ECT credit course delivered by the University of Limerick.
- Our long-term vision is coordinated by Dick Meaney, former Senior Vice President Analog Devices. The focus is to deliver a strategy to develop a world class Smart Region. Post Covid-19, we would aspire to be the most digitally connected peripheral region in EU, with the lowest possible carbon footprint. Utilising our strongest resource, our people, we will construct a resilient, dynamic and adaptive labour force who will enhance the reputation of the Mid-West as an attractive place to live, work and do business. Ultimately, achieving Smart Region status will enable us to attract further inward investment and develop centres of excellence for specific sectors such as ICT and Pharmaceuticals. Again, EU and national funding will be sought to achieve our long-term objectives.
“To Engage, Enable and Empower people in the Mid-West Region to meet the changes to our working environment as a result of Covid-19. Through e-learning and digital technologies we will future-proof the workforce of the Mid-West, thereby demonstrating our capabilities as a Smart Region”
Midwest Response is an independent, voluntary not-for-profit whose purpose is to deliver employment initiatives to the Clare, Limerick & Tipperary areas of Ireland, post Covid-19. Our regional and national stakeholders are driven by the passion to realign, train and upskill the Midwest workforce affected by the economic impact therefore enabling a transition back to gainful employment, or reskilling to a new career.