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Skills Shortage Still An SME Concern

Ireland's digital skills shortage is still keeping fingernails gnawed to the quick among SME owners, who worry that their firms will be left behind.

The latest Close Brothers business barometer canvassed the opinions of over 700 SME owners and business managers in the UK and Ireland last June.

It shows that over half of those polled (54%) believe they'll need enhanced or increased digital capabilities in the next three years, in order to cope with the ever-changing business landscape.

However, 69% are worried about how they will successfully upskill, with many firms citing difficulties finding suitably skilled staff and the level of investment required as potential stumbling blocks.

Harry Parkinson (pictured), managing director of Close Brothers Commercial Finance says that Ireland needs to explore how it can prepare to compete in a digital global economy.

“A recent study published by the European Commission found that 38% of the Irish workforce have little or no digital skills. Perhaps it is becoming necessary for businesses to look towards the younger generation to help address the growing skills gap.”

The survey also found that, of the Irish firms who do not believe they will have any requirement for increased digital ability, half do not consider digital skills as relevant to their business. 

Says Parkinson: “SMEs across the board should consider the importance of digital skills in their workforce and the value these skills can bring. With €5.5bn billion forecast to be spent online in Ireland during 2014, it is vital that businesses are equipped for e-commerce and have the skills required to engage customers via their website or social media sites.

“It is clear that additional industry support is needed to deliver digital skills education in schools and also help young people into digital roles by offering more practical work experience.” (August 2014)

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