ISME calls for ‘blue cert’ qualification scheme for SMEs

20 Aug 2020

From left: Dr Tomás Mac Eochagáin, director of academic programmes at Griffith College; Neil McDonnell, CEO of ISME; and Louisa Meehan, president of Network Ireland. Image: ISME

Industry group ISME is calling for an SME qualification to provide managers with key skills such as business and commercial law, marketing and staff training.

Ireland’s SME association is calling for the introduction of a certification process to professionalise the sector.

The framework for a proposed ‘blue cert’ qualification for SMEs has been developed by ISME, Network Ireland and Griffith College, with the goal of increasing SME resilience while equipping the sector to drive productivity in the Irish economy.

The framework is based on Teagasc’s Green Cert in farm administration, which is already in operation. It is proposed that the SME course would be incentivised in the same manner as the Green Cert.

ISME first introduced the proposal to Government in 2019 and is calling once again for the introduction of a scheme. In the proposal made last year to Government, economist Jim Power said: “Productivity among Irish SMEs is static or falling, as is profitability.

“This is occurring at a time when there is an increasing trend towards protectionism globally, when our nearest and largest trading partner is leaving the single market, and when the US (and EU Commission) trade and corporation tax policies threaten the long-term viability of our traditional industrial policies based around foreign multinational corporations.”

Power warned that “latent deficits in managerial skills” in the SME sector need to be addressed if Ireland is to scale its indigenous enterprise base.

Strengthening SMEs in Ireland

ISME has identified key skills that would need to be developed through a Level 6 Quality and Qualifications Ireland course.

This would cover business and commercial law, the tax system, wages, technology absorption and software packages, engineering skills, marketing skills, treasury skills, research and development capability, staff training, market research, and intergenerational business transfer.

The goal of the proposed blue cert training programme is to broaden the enterprise and export base to ensure that the economy is resilient, diversified and adaptable, and to support the market diversification of Irish enterprise to help cope with external market shocks such as Brexit and Covid-19.

Neil McDonnell, chief executive at ISME, said: “The Irish SME sector significantly lags the multinational sector in terms of productivity. This gap has been widely reported on by OECD and the National Competitiveness Council.

“Both the Workplace Relations Commission and the Health and Safety Authority have identified basic deficits in the knowledge of employment law and the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 which must be addressed.”

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic