Small Business Q&A: Denis Collins, chairman of the IT@Cork Tech Cluster

Denis Collins

Recently, the cluster started a new initiative called Adopt-a-School and Kehlan talked with Denis about what it aims to do.

* Firstly, what is the IT@Cork Tech Cluster?

Well, IT@Cork Tech Cluster is a combination of more than 300 businesses that drives over €300bn globally in revenue and over €2bn in Ireland. It is a vision in which we aim to integrate public sector, academia, and business to drive a number of different branches. Of those branches, our two main aims would be social and commercial. So, driving commercial ideas and investment means business and jobs, while our social aspect means developing with communities and providing solutions on a societal level. As part of that, we have the Adopt-a-School initiative which will be part of that societal strand of what we’re aiming to do.

* What is the Adopt-a-School initiative going to bring?

In essence, the vision is to see how we can collaborate industry and education together to drive the right skills for what industries need. We also want to let young adults see that they have a future here in Ireland, where industries are making a concerted effort to drive the skills necessary for now and into the future. We’re working with over thirty schools in the Cork region to help inspire and develop success for them and by ensuring their success companies and businesses can be assured of their success in future because they know that kids and young adults are getting skills-ready. We run programmes with universities and ITs called ‘Fit for Work’, but we realised that we needed to encourage kids much earlier in the process. For example, we are working on a new initiative where we are looking to get 100 young women from transition year in schools on work placements to different industries, in particular STEM subject areas where female uptake still remains low.

* What do you hope comes from the Adopt-a-School initiative?

Well, economies are now competing on a global scale and in order to do that you need the competitive talent with which to provide industries. With everything that has gone on in the past number of years, they need to know that the skills they learn will keep them here. So, if we create the right platform of skills we can create a pull strategy rather than a push strategy where industry is using homegrown indigenous talent. For SMEs, this means that the talent will be there to grow their business at a rate that they want to, rather than having to wait until the right talent eventually comes along. Then Cork, as a whole, will become more attractive for digital, IT, SMEs, cloud computing and data protection. So, combining our outlook with FDI companies, SMEs and education in mind, we are developing the right tools that will affect all of business in the area.


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