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SMEs upskilling workforce

Rory Noonan, The Echo

7 Dec 2022

70% of SMEs will invest time and money into upskilling workforce

MORE than half, (51%) of Cork SMEs feel that they are keeping themselves up to date with emerging best practices in digitalisation and automation in order to enhance their customer experience and proposition.

This is according to a new report by MentorsWork, the nationwide business-support programme for SMEs, who are launching their new programme for 2023 which is now open for signups.

This year’s MentorsWork programme will specifically address supporting SMEs to navigate the challenges within their current operating environments including operating cost increases, price inflation, recruitment and retention challenges, cybersecurity threats and overall corporate governance.

The research found that 65% of Cork SMEs understand the implications of tech threats to their businesses and have a cybersecurity framework relevant to their businesses in place.

MentorsWork also found that 70% of Cork’s SMEs are investing their time and money into training and upskilling their workforce to implement and get the most out of technology.

Elsewhere, the research found that younger businesses are lacking when it comes to awareness and adoption of emerging technologies and their impact on business performance. The survey revealed that older businesses as well as those with 50+ employees were most likely to understand the range of emerging technologies and their impact on business and customers.

SMEs in the food and drink sector were least likely to be aware of emerging technologies, with the ICT sector ranking itself 17% above average when it came to awareness and adoption.

The manufacturing sector is noticeably lower than average when looking at overall digitalisation and automation competency.

The recent research, which surveyed 615 business owners, asking them to self-assess digital and automation competencies, further found that when it comes to protecting customer’s data, preventing ransomware attacks and other cybersecurity breaches, younger businesses see themselves as being least competent, with competency levels in managing these challenges increasing in line with the maturity of the business.

According to the research, older businesses of 21+ years, and those that employ over 50 employees, are over 10 per cent more competent than younger businesses. Organisations operating in manufacturing, retail and hospitality are the ‘least competent when it comes to understanding and protecting against tech threats.

Commenting on the findings of MentorsWork’s latest report and the 2022 programme, Elizabeth Bowen, Acting Director of the Small Firms Association says: “This year’s programme was designed to support SMEs in navigating the various challenges that are most prevalent in today’s market, providing hands-on, tailored guidance around issues such as managing cost inflation, addressing recruitment and retention pressures, and protecting businesses and their customers against cyber threats.”

MentorsWork is delivered by the Small Firms Association (SFA) in partnership with Skillnet Ireland.

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