1,000 mentoring places on scheme backed by Irish Govt

MentorsWork scheme expanded to include mentoring for small businesses with less than five employees.

The 2022 MentorsWork programme to provide SMEs with mentoring and business development tools has gone live with a wider remit.

Including a more intensive programme for faster growing businesses, the scheme has 1,000 places and boasts a wider access than before with support available for small businesses with less than five employees.

“Many of the business pivots that determined owners had to implement have opened up exciting new opportunity that can be capitalised on”

Launched in 2020, MentorsWork has helped more than 1,000 businesses all around Ireland in challenging times.  The next round of 1,000 programme places is open to SME owners and leadership teams across all industries.  Any private sector business with up to 250 employees is eligible to participate in the 12-week mentoring and business planning programme. 

Rebuilding beyond the pandemic

Feedback from business owners who completed the programme has been exceptional, with many recognising that their enterprise may not have survived the pandemic without the professional guidance of their mentor, Sven Spollen-Behrens of the Small Firms Association says.

“The programme focus is now on rebuilding and on actioning development plans introduced or planned during lockdown,” Spollen-Behrens said.

“Family businesses and smaller enterprise is very resilient. Many of the business pivots that determined owners had to implement have opened up exciting new opportunity that can be capitalised on, going forward.”

A new aspect of the 2022 programme is that businesses with less than 5 employees can now apply to be part of the mentoring support scheme.

As not all businesses have the same growth trajectory, we now have a more intensive programme for faster growing businesses that are accepted on the scheme. A new Green economy stream supporting owners and managers working in low carbon, resource-efficient and socially-inclusive businesses has been introduced too, to ensure Irish businesses have access to the supports they need to build sustainable operating models and develop the talent to respond to this shift.

Also, the 2022 programme will offer consultancy services to businesses that have gone through MentorsWork previously, in either 2020 or 2021, and now require further support with a business development plan.

“At Skillnet Ireland we support business owners and managers to navigate the challenges they are facing and facilitate opportunities to grow their businesses by offering supports that are targeted at their specific needs,” said Paul Healy, CEO of Skillnet Ireland.

“We are pleased to announce this expansion of the MentorsWork programme which includes the new green economy business stream, helping SMEs examine what climate change means for their business model. The opportunity to analyse talent needs, gain expert advice and develop bespoke business plans through MentorsWork is essential to driving sustainable growth and innovation across the SME sector.”

The first ever ‘in-person’ MentorsWork conference is planned for Thursday, 23 June, in Dublin. It will have practical advice on this year’s programme, including the new Green Economy strand, as well as reports on small business finance, growth skills and digital skills.

The 12-week business support programme offers one-to-one mentoring from an independent professional mentor, experienced in the business area, as well as masterclasses and peer-to-peer workshops. It includes an online diagnostic tool to provide insights and help business owners and managers identify key skills and development needs.

There is also access to a self-paced learning portal and online resources in the MentorsWork business development package which is free to business owners and managers of SMEs. Integrated learning supports address four key areas; People, Business Processes, Finance and Growth, and Digitalisation and Automation.

The programme is provided by the Small Firms Association (SFA) in partnership with Skillnet Ireland.  97% of participating businesses have successfully completed the transformational programme, to date.

“Through this mentorship programme companies, and people, acquire technical and transversal skills, and crucial guidance on leadership, creativity, teamworking and problem solving,” said Simon Harris, TD, Minister of Further and Higher Education.

“Emerging from the pandemic, MentorsWork will help SMEs navigate a much-changed world, one in which digital transformation and inflationary pressure presents a new set of challenges and opportunities.”

“Ireland has an advanced system of skills provision, across Further and Higher Education, lifelong learning, and human capital development; it is agile and responsive to changes in the world of work, addressing evolving skills needs and the needs of our economy and society, the Minister concluded.

Main image: Bobbie Kerry and Minister Simon Harris launch the 20022 MentorsWork programme

John Kennedy
Award-winning ThinkBusiness.ie editor John Kennedy is one of Ireland's most experienced business and technology journalists.