Is training dead? Not in Ireland, apparently, although if you believed the news, you couldn’t imagine anything surviving the current economic blight.
Yesterday I keynoted at the Irish Computer Society’s National IT Training Conference in Dublin. According to the local media, and just about anyone you talk to, the Irish economy is in meltdown.
The taxi drivers, the barmen and even the hotel staff, everyone told the same story: the housing bubble has burst, bringing down government income and forcing up unemployment.
This is more than just a bit of complaining or the love of a good story. The headline on the Irish Independent on the Aer Lingus flight out was We’ve never had it so bad. Unemployment is likely to top 500,000 soon and national income to fall by 14% over the three years from 2008 to 2010 – the worst three year drop in any developed country since the 1930s.
Training’s been hit, too, as the government has withdrawn funding for training programmes, and employers and individuals have cut back on spending.
Yet about 200 people took time out to attend the ICS Skills event, and although they were realistic about the current situation, they were also intent on surviving it. Plenty of them – in the private and public sectors – have seen downturns before. Many referred to the 1980s, the time of the last bad downturn, and talked of the very practical ways they plan to ride out this rough patch.
From the training magazine that folded in print format, only to relaunch online, to the school that’s creating its own interactive whiteboards rather than pay for expensive imported items. From the drop-in centre for the unemployed finding ways to carry on regardless to the innovative learning technology start ups, there is plenty of fight here, and plenty of good news, too.
On the way back to the airport my taxi driver took me past huge patches of land cleared for construction that may now never happen, and the vast Ikea store that is apparently empty and unwanted by a population that has no plans for redecoration at the moment.
Things are tough in Ireland right now, no mistake, but nobody’s giving up just yet.