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MentorsWork identify SME Skills Gaps in Finance and Growth

By Business & Finance
18 August 2022

Productivity and business development is hampered across many small and medium sized enterprises, due to significant skills gaps.  This is according to a new report by MentorsWork, the Government-backed mentoring programme.

Productivity and business development is hampered across many small and medium sized enterprises, due to significant skills gaps.  This is according to a new report by MentorsWork, the Government-backed mentoring programme.

A collaborative venture of Skillnet Ireland and the Small Firms Association, the report findings show many SMEs also struggle to access finance and financial supports. 

While innovation and technological advances are critical to increased productivity, SMEs crucially need robust financial planning, Skillnet Ireland Chief Executive Paul Healy, says.

It is critical that owner-managers of small businesses have up-to-date organisational and financial skills, including financial literacy, analysis skills and understanding risk.  This will mean they can implement the necessary changes to adapt to an ever-evolving business landscape”. 

MentorsWork, an award-winning mentoring support, is designed for business owners and managers, to help boost SME productivity with mentors and business development tools.    Applications to participate are open now at

The new report particularly examines financial competency.  Older businesses, around for ten years or more, and those with higher employee numbers and more likely to have strong financial literacy skills and better capacity for effective strategic planning.

Younger SMEs (10 years or less), score lower in the report’s measures of financial understanding.  In addition, these businesses have more difficulty accessing financing and financial supports, as do businesses with 9 employees or fewer.

ICT and Services Sector Challenged

ICT and services are the sectors particularly challenged when it comes to financing needs, and the services industry is associated with lower levels of financial literacy in the report.

Retail and hospitality, food and drink, and manufacturing report above average competency for financial planning.  SMEs in the ICT sector are average, while services rated below average.

The subsidised MentorsWork programme includes in-depth competency assessments on SMEs’ main productivity drivers, one of which is finance and growth skills, Skillnet Ireland Strategy Officer, Mark Jordan says.  

Programmes are developed in response to specific business needs, which we regularly measure and assess.  Our latest data from MentorsWork participants helped us refine supports in the areas of finance and business growth for specific types of business.

“For example, the new 2022 MentorsWork programme, launched recently, includes a more intensive programme for faster growing businesses, as well as additional new support in progressing a business plan for former scheme participants.”

The success rate of businesses completing the 12-week MentorsWork programme is impressive to date, the Skillnet Ireland Strategy Officer says.  

“The programme supports SMEs with up to 250 employees from a diverse range of sectors.  SMEs play an important role in driving Ireland’s economic revival.  Mentors help companies focus on key talent needs needed to shape and deliver a sustainable business plan,” Jordan says.

Launched in 2020, MentorsWork has helped over 1,000 businesses around Ireland.  New places are now open to SME owners and managers across all industry types.  Private sector business with up to 250 employees can participate in the 12-week subsidised mentoring programme, addressing core competencies with a one-to-one mentor.

Marks for Marketing

The MentorsWork report shows competency in business marketing is highest in the retail and hospitality and food and drink sectors, and for larger companies.  Younger companies, around less than 10 years, rate their marketing competency higher.

Older and larger businesses rate their competence in winning and competing for new business more highly, with retail and hospitality out-pacing services, manufacturing and ICT businesses.

The motivation for growth in the retail and hospitality industry is lower than average, and the same is true for younger and smaller businesses.

A strategy focus is a significant element that an independent mentor can bring to a business, Sven Spollen-Behrens of the Small Firms Association (SFA), says.

Small business owners are pulled in all directions, and will often manage day-to-day operations and sales and marketing too, to keep business ticking over.  Where MentorsWork helps is in directing attention to future business planning, such as what does expansion look like, how will it be funded, and where will it come from?” 

One-to-one mentoring sessions, peer-focused workshops, expert-led masterclasses and an online learning platform are all part of the scheme to support business productivity.

MentorsWork supports businesses in sectors including services and manufacturing for domestic and international markets.  Lifestyle, hair and beauty, childcare, technology, retail, marketing services, and recruitment are largely represented in the 12-week programme too.  

SME owners and managers can apply now to participate at