Brian Colleran at DPP Skillnet chats to Irish Printer about moving its courses online and why reskilling is more important than ever.
Over the course of 2020 the Design, Print & Packaging Skillnet greatly increased the number of courses it normally runs in a year. For employees of print firms on furlough, it gave them an opportunity to upskill while they waited for the print industry to kick of again. “What came out of the year was the importance of training and keeping your skills current.
The courses we run are dictated from conversations we have with print firms so they’re directly tailored to the industry. We feel that if a print firm is not availing of our services, they’re missing out on an important element that helps keep their company fresh and relevant in an ever-changing marketplace,” said Brian Colleran, Network Manager at DPP Skillnet.
This year was all about reaching as many people as possible within the various industry sectors and getting them involved in the training initiatives on offer, says Brian. Courses included sessions on colour, a Diploma in packaging technology, e-commerce and digital skills. As well as showing strong interest in technical courses, print companies also engaged in management training and development.
In response to Covid-19, DPP Skillnet launched a heavily funded programme titled ‘Competitive Advantage for SMEs’ which provided a print business with a consultant to review and develop their business model, strategy and operational plans. In addition to long-standing programmes like its Masters in Professional Practice, this new course provided owners and management with the opportunities to develop their capabilities to drive their businesses forward. These programmes will, says Brian, continue in 2021.
Courses were, of course, held virtually this year. “There were challenges associated with that; we had to acquire a new platform to allow us to host online training and we also had to work with our training providers to help them transform their courses from being in-person delivered in a classroom to in-person delivered across the web. Judging by the interest from print firms though, the additional work was worth it.” Most Irish print firms are SME’s, says Brian. “Small businesses need people who are multi-talented and multi-skilled and who have the ability to turn their hand to virtually anything. Encouraging staff to attain additional skills is good for everyone.”
Irish Printing Federation President Diarmuid Dawson talks to Denise Maguire of the Irish Printer about the ongoing issues affecting the print industry and the new challenges brought about by Covid-19.
At the start of 2020 I had a chat with Diarmuid Dawson, Irish Printing Federation (IPF) President and MD at Innovative Print Solutions Ltd and Dermot Downer, Vice President of the IPF and MD at Westside Press Ltd.
At the time, we had all heard about Covid-19 and its devastating consequences but it was something that affected other countries and hadn’t yet reached our shores (or so we believed). During our chat, Diarmuid and Dermot talked about some of the challenges facing the sector; the importance of effectively communicating prints’ green credentials, the ongoing apprenticeship issue and the fact that jobs were still leaving the State to be printed elsewhere. As the year comes to a close, I once again caught up with Diarmuid and while all of those issues are still impacting the sector, Covid has taken top spot as the single biggest challenge facing print firms going into 2021.
The cancellation of weddings, corporate events, sports and music festivals have had a huge impact on the print industry. Commercial print has, says Diarmuid, been hit the hardest. Some smaller firms may not be in a position to open their doors again. “Right now, we don’t know what the situation is as people are availing of the financial supports that are out there. Until people are back to work properly, we won’t know but we are aware that quite a few companies are really feeling the pinch. It’s just not possible to operate on 50% of your business and that’s the situation for a significant number of firms at the moment,” said Diarmuid.
Firms producing material for the pharmaceutical, packaging and labels sector are better placed to weather the current economic uncertainty. “That was a trend we noticed at the Irish Print Awards last year, when several label firms won awards. There are still plenty of companies producing Covid-related material; it’s great to some positivity coming out of what has been a bad year.” The pandemic has fuelled some print firms’ creativity over recent months; Trimfold launched the Sanilope, a new sanitised cutlery envelope designed to keep cutlery safe and hygienic in all hospitality and catering settings, while Print Media Services came up with VisorLite, a disposable cardboard face shield that’s currently being used by staff in the Little Museum of Dublin. “A little bit of ingenuity in these uncertain times is very encouraging. We’ve seen some very clever products over the past while and I hope it continues.”
When I spoke to Dermot and Diarmuid earlier this year, there was a very real sense of disappointment over the stalled apprenticeship scheme and the lack of engagement from Solas. “Nothing has changed. We have about 45 apprentices on the books who are ready to take up a printing apprenticeship but we have nowhere to send them. We feel we’ve been very let down by Solas and there’s very little point in talking to them anymore. At the end of the day it falls at their door. Our next step may have to be reaching out to Minister Harris as we have reached a dead end.”
Diarmuid is highly critical of the “misguided marketing messages” that say printing less is good for the environment. “It’s something we regularly come across and it’s just not true. More than 90% of print materials are recyclable. Sustainable forests are increasingly supplying the materials to print and even the chemicals and inks that are currently being used are eco-friendly. What these people are failing to see are the backup infrastructure and storage facilities required for online that require three or four times as much energy. Just because you don’t see it doesn’t make it eco-friendly.”
“Uncertainty” has been the buzzword of 2020 but it perfectly describes the environment caused not just by Covid, but also by Brexit. “Obviously Covid muddied the water there for a long time but Brexit is back on the agenda now. We don’t know what the outcome will be but there is a possibility that it will put a stop to work going up the North. We know for a fact that work is getting produced in the UK and further afield in Europe. With border controls going in, will less print be produced in the UK and Northern Ireland? I hope so but at this stage, we don’t know.” Print subsidies going into Northern Ireland from the UK have made it much cheaper for firms in the south to export their work up north. It’s an ongoing, frustrating issue and one that Diarmuid hopes will change in 2020. “I am finding that not for profits, charities and pretty much any organisation that cannot reclaim VAT uses the north and UK to avoid the VAT charged here. People think this is a border/import VAT exemption but it’s more to do with the fact that the UK doesn’t charge VAT on print. Also, if a charity purchases print for fundraising purposes, let’s say it’s a collection box, any items that are part of that campaign are VAT exempt. For example, if you get a pen or daffodil or a badge, they too are purchased VAT free. We have a real problem when Irish firms aren’t supporting the local print industry.”
The fact that the UK is leaving Europe won’t make a difference to the amount of Irish print being produced over there, says Diarmuid. “It may initially be more cumbersome but I think we should be highlighting the GDPR implications to clients, particularly if data merging is taking place in the north and the UK. That’s a big no-no going forward.” Once the UK decided to leave the EU, Innovative Print Solutions lost a large chunk of its business. “Traditionally, we would do a lot of corporate finance and shareholder print work, business that would have come as a result of companies taking over other companies.
For more than two years now, that side of our business has been adversely affected. In many respects though, we’re lucky. We’re an essential supplier thanks to the security work we do with the HSE so I’m very appreciative of that.” There have been some bright spots in the print sector over the past few months. With so many members of the print industry on furlough, the Design, Print & Packaging Skillnet stepped up by providing a host of online courses, the majority of which were free of charge. “Brian Colleran and his team did tremendous work this year. Training and upskilling your workers to allow your company to adapt and evolve with a rapidly changing industry has never been more important.” Despite the year we’ve all had, Diarmuid is quietly optimistic about the future. “As an industry we need to put our best foot forward. We need to be as competitive as we can and hopefully, we can get back to some kind of normality early next year. We’ve got a lot of work to do but the print industry is well up to the challenge.”
Design Print and Packaging Skillnet supports the workforce development needs of businesses within the Design Print and Packaging Sectors.
e offer a small number of industry-led and fully funded programmes for people who are not in employment, subject to eligibility criteria and the availability of places. If you are currently not in employment and wish to upskill or reskill, and with to stay informed about future Skills Connect Programmes please sign up for our newsletter and we will email you details on the programmes as they become available.
Skillnet Ireland has launched the second phase of the ‘Clear Customs’ programme as part of the Government Brexit Readiness Action Plan. The free online training programme developed by Skillnet Ireland will be delivered by CILT Skillnet virtually and is accredited by Carlow Institute of Technology.
By the end of 2020, businesses, trading either with or through the UK, will be subject to a range of new customs formalities and other regulatory requirements. Clear Customs offers free essential online customs training to Customs intermediaries, and to businesses who frequently trade with or through the UK, or to jurisdictions outside the EU Customs Union.
The Clear Customs training programme is targeted at Irish businesses, or others acting on behalf of businesses such as customs intermediaries. Features include an ‘on-the-go’ mobile app upon registration that will help customs agents, intermediaries and affected Irish businesses develop the capacity to deal with additional customs requirements. All businesses that trade with or through the UK need to act now to be prepared.
In order to ensure your business is customs ready, please apply for Clear Customs Online training now.
If you have been considering doing a Masters programme this year but have been put off by lengthy academic programmes and concerns about going back to education when you’re trying to run a small business or perform your role within a business, the TU Dublin awarded Masters in Professional Practice, kicking off this November, is just the right programme for you.
This highly regarded programme has three major advantages over other taught Masters programmes:
TIME: Taking just 11 months, it is one of the most condensed Business Masters programmes available in Ireland.
SUBSIDISED COST: Supported by the Design, Print & Packaging Skillnet it is heavily subsidised, costing just €4,500. This is less than half the cost of comparable Masters programmes in Ireland!
EXPERIENCE: The TU Dublin accredited Masters in Professional Practice is designed specifically for experienced professionals who are now seeking a practical yet challenging programme to build their business skills in the latest digital marketing and strategic marketing techniques and to provide the business communications and coaching skills, finance and leadership skills to bring their career to the next level.
Quick Guide –
WHO CAN APPLY: Applications are welcomed from those with a background in the Design, Print and Packaging sectors who have at least 5 years experience.
APPLICATION DEADLINE – SEPTEMBER 30TH: Get your application in now so you can get an early confirmation of your place. HOW TO APPLY: Submit your CV to email@example.com
ACCEPTANCE PROCESS: Interview based on your experience detailed in your CV.
The 2020/21 programme will be delivered by blended learning. Building on the success of the previous year’s edition, the programme will comprise a mix of both in Class and on-line session.
Preparing now for the post COVID-19 way of working is crucial to enabling businesses to move forward safely and sustainably. The free #ReBound initiative led by Skillnet Ireland will upskill business owners and managers as they implement new business practices. Prepare now. www.rebound.ie
Design, Print & Packaging Skillnet is co-funded by Skillnet Ireland and network companies. Skillnet Ireland is funded from the National Training Fund through the Department of Further and Higher Education, research, Innovation and Science.