The country’s first rural digital hub, the Ludgate, in Skibbereen, is to open a second centre in West Cork and establish an “academy” to teach other communities how to set up similar initiatives.
Yesterday, its chief executive, Adrienne Harrington, declared that 2019 will be a game-changer for the centre, which, over the coming months, will begin creating 400 jobs and rolling out a digital skills programme to primary and second-level students all over the West Cork region.
She said the elements of the Hub’s 2019 to do list will be funded with a €2m grant allocated by Enterprise Ireland through a regional development fund.
An evaluation of three separate locations in West Cork for a second state-of-the-art centre is under way.
“We will shortly have outgrown our space on Townshend Street, in Skibbereen, and are planning to expand to another location during this year,” she said.
A decision is due within months.
“It will also be home to a new digital/STEM centre for children, which will enhance the digital skills programme we will be rolling out at both primary and second-level in West Cork,” she said.
Meanwhile, some 100 of the 400 new jobs are expected to be created through the establishment of a Hub Academy to give advice to other communities about setting up hubs.
“There is a wide range of government grants now available to towns and villages to set up employment creation hubs like Ludgate, for example in the food or digital area.
“We will be beyond drawing on our experience of setting up Ludgate in this initiative, which is expected to create 100 jobs elsewhere in the country,” she said.
The Hub is in the process of hiring an education/innovation officer, who will oversee the rollout of a digital-skills programme across all second-level schools in West Cork next September. A similar programme will be introduced at primary-school level to enhance digital skills and introduce children to coding.
Ludgate will also partner with the iWish initiative to promote STEM subjects and careers to girls.
The Hub will create 390 jobs in the next three to five years, said Ms Harrington. Fifty of these would be in the food tech/agri-tech sector. Sixty more jobs are to be created by supporting start-up companies within Ludgate.