Skills Strategy Action Plan & Tips

Unleashing Talent for the Future
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On the 22nd of November 2023, Innopharma Education hosted a 1-day skills conference, aligned with the European Year of Skills. Business Leaders, People Managers and Talent Professionals came together to help solve organisations skills gaps and mismatches. 

The day highlighted the imperative of prioritising skills development in Ireland for sustainable economic growth and competitiveness. It was clear that collaboration among government, industry and educators is needed to create a supportive environment for lifelong learning. The opening address by Orla Callan, Managing Director of Innopharma Education, highlighted our mission to bridge skills gaps in high-tech sectors through industry-focused and flexible education programmes. 

The recent OECD report states that over 200,000 people in Ireland need new skills with 75,000 requiring complete reskilling and 125,000 needing upskilling due to automation and digitalisation. Innopharma education proposes agile skills pathways through public-private partnerships to address this challenge.

Minister Neale Richmond spoke about the importance of investing in skills to maintain Ireland's competitive edge, noting that a well-educated and agile workforce is a key attractor for international companies and talent.

Three panels further delve into the themes of Reinventing, Leading, and Supporting. The Reinventing panel emphasizes the need for a "future-capable" workforce, highlighting the evolving nature of skills required, including data analysis and AI skills. The Leading panel stresses the importance of embedding talent development into business strategy, with a focus on digital skills and workforce transformation.

Key takeaways from the conference include the acknowledgment that many organisations expect future skills gaps and the importance of effective implementation in upskilling programmes. It is evident that there is a cultural shift needed in the post-pandemic hybrid work environment, where flexibility and agile learning are paramount.

Check out our event report highlights below:

Download event highlights report



Future skills in high-tech manufacturing

Our CEO, Dr Ian Jones was invited to the European parliament in Brussels for the launch of BioPharmaChem Ireland’s 5-year strategy document.

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Lars Sudmann

Keynote Speaker: Lars Sudmann

Lars is an advisor, keynote speaker and executive trainer on leadership, strategy, innovation and communication for global corporations and their leaders

He is the owner of Sudmann & Company, a consulting and management training network. Lars is drawing on his business experience (e.g. as CFO Belgium of Procter & Gamble) as well as consulting expertise with Fortune500 companies to help companies achieve better business and organizational results.

His TEDx talks are top-ranked with more than 2 million views and he is a 6-times Belgian and 2-times European Publilc Speaking Champion.




Claire McGee

Claire McGee

Claire McGee - Head of Education and Innovation Policy for IBEC.

Claire's role is to promote  business and industry priorities in supporting the education system to respond to the changing world of work and society, and boost Ireland’s capacity for innovation.  She is a board member of the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education and of the National Council of Curriculum and Assessment, in addition to supporting many agency and government initiatives on skills, education, research and innovation. 

Patricia Quane


Patricia Quane - Chairperson for Future Skills Need.

Patricia Quane held the position of Vice President & General Manager in Astellas Ireland Co., Ltd, a Japanese Pharmaceutical company employing 400 people in Killorglin. Patricia was involved in this company from the pre-construction stage and moved through several management roles before becoming the first non-Japanese Head of Plant in 2008. Sustainability was high on her agenda and the work in Killorglin led to the plant achieving Global recognition for its leadership in the Corporate Environmental Initiative program, utilizing renewable energy and implementing measures to protect the environment. Also, the plant won several major National Awards for sustainability (SEAI/IBEC/Chambers Ireland). In recent years, Patricia has enjoyed many voluntary roles within IBEC, BioPharmaChem Ireland (BPCI), and the Department of Enterprise, Trade & Employment. She was very committed to engaging and interacting with the IDA while supporting their efforts to attract new companies to the Kerry Region. As the Chairperson of BioPharmaChem Ireland (BPCI), Patricia had numerous opportunities to represent and present at pharmaceutical industry events nationally and internationally. Patricia retired from Astellas in April 2020 and since that time has taken up a number of voluntary roles with State bodies all aimed at developing and supporting enterprise growth in Ireland.In 2020 Minister Damien English TD appointed Patricia as the Chairperson of the Southwest Regional Enterprise Plan (SWREP) committee. In March 2022, within the remit of the Labour Market and Skills unit of the Department of Enterprise, Trade & Employment, Patricia was appointed as the Chairperson of the Expert Group for Future Skills Need (EGFSN) for the Biopharma industry. This project aims to identify the likely skills needs and skills gaps that will arise in the BioPharma sector in Ireland over the next five years. In 2022, Patricia embarked on the Institute of Directors (IoD) Chartered Director Programme and achieved Chartered Director status in 2023. In March 2023, Patricia received The Lifetime Contribution Award 2023 at the Kerry Business Awards. This recognition reflected her contribution to developing and supporting effective investment in Kerry and her advocacy and support for agencies in their efforts to attract and support businesses in the region.  

David Hegarty


David Hegarty - Partner for Indecon.

David Hegarty is a Partner at Indecon, Ireland’s leading independent economic research and consultancy organisation.  Up to recently, David was Assistant Secretary at the Department, Enterprise, Trade and Employment where he headed up the Department’s Enterprise Strategy, Competitiveness and Evaluation Division. In that capacity, he was responsible for advising Government on overall enterprise policy and he directed the development of the White Paper on Enterprise published in December 2022.  Reflecting the cross-cutting nature of enterprise policy, David worked closely with other divisions in the Department and with other Government Departments on areas such as skills, taxation, essential infrastructures, competitiveness and productivity. He represented the Department on various policy advisory groups including the National Competitiveness and Productivity Council, the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs and the Labour Market Advisory Council. An economist by profession, David previously worked in the Department of Finance.

William Beausang

William Beausang

William Beausang - Assistant Secretary for the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science .

William Beausang is an Assistant Secretary in the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science with responsibility for Further Education and Training, Apprenticeship, Skills and Tertiary Education Policy. In that role he led the development on behalf of DFHERIS of the recent OECD Review of Ireland’s National Skills Strategy. He has previously worked in the Department of Education, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Department of Finance. He holds a Degree in Public Administration and Masters in Economic Science, both from University College Dublin and has also completed the Graduate Programme in Economics at the University of Tilburg..


Aisling Soden


Dr Aisling Soden – Senior Manager, Talent, Transformation And Innovation (TTI) Department, IDA Ireland.

Aisling leads the Talent Pillar in the Talent, Transformation and Innovation (TTI) Department in IDA Ireland. TTI supports IDA clients to transform their business through the development of innovation, digital and talent strategies and supports. Prior to joining IDA Aisling worked as a Programme Manager in Science Foundation Ireland. Aisling obtained a PhD in Earth Science from the University of Glasgow and has held research positions in the University of Strathclyde and UCD.

Noel Kelly


Noel Kelly – Head of Digital Transformation at InnoGlobal

Noel is the head of Innoglobal Digital transformation. As an experienced transformation leader, he has created performance-based partnerships with leaders of prominent high tech manufacturing companies to facilitate digital transformations. Noel brings deep expertise in business strategy, technology modernisation, Manufacturing operations, organisation development and culture , technology enablement, innovation, and performance management. An Engineer with post graduate qualifications in Applied Finance and Executive and Leadership Coaching, Noel has more than 30 years’ experience as a Global Business Leader. Most recently Noel was Senior Business Unit Director in Jabil Healthcare responsible for a global $200M complex medical device manufacturing business. He has held senior leadership roles with Jabil Healthcare, Nypro Healthcare, Honeywell and Waterford Crystal. He is a dynamic passionate and forward-thinking leader, with a strong track record of success. Noel has led a fast-moving career in Business, Engineering, Operations and Supply Chain, with a proven history in the development and leadership of high-performance teams, to deliver superior performance. .

Daniel Hickey

Daniel Hickey

Daniel Hickey - Owner and Managing Director of AllinAll .

With a career spanning decades, he held key roles at ICC, including Divisional Manager of the Venture Capital Division (1987-1992) and Manager at Corporate Finance (1980-1987). Daniel's academic background is equally impressive, having earned a BBS and MA from Trinity College Dublin, as well as the distinguished FCMA designation. Beyond his professional achievements, Daniel has been an active contributor to various organizations. He served as the Past Vice President of the Irish Exporters Association, Chairman of the Irish Venture Capital Association in 1990, and as a member of the Small Business Forum. Furthermore, Daniel's dedication to the economic landscape is evident through his involvement as a commentator for business journals since the late 1970s. He also lent his expertise to a subcommittee of the Forfas Group, contributing to the report titled "Ahead of the Curve, Ireland's Place in the Global Economy.

Paula Kearney

Paula Kearney

Paula Kearney – Site Learning Lead at Takeda.

Site Learning Lead – Takeda Grange Castle; a Japanese Pharmaceutical company. Grange Castle has 3 plants which encompass API, High Potency and Cell Therapy facilities. With over 29 years of experience in the Pharmaceutical industry Paula is responsible for developing and delivering the Site Learning Strategy to deliver the operational competency requirements for a GXP regulated, manufacturing environment across multiple functions and for implementing the learning strategy based on site needs and business objectives. We promote an active learning culture by encouraging our employees to embark on new learning opportunities. We are committed to building skills for a digital future to make learning a competitive advantage for all of our colleagues. We share many resources to develop the skills and knowledge of employees to increase efficiency and create a continuous learning culture. 

Kevin Marshall

Kevin Marshall

Dr Kevin Marshall – Head of Learning & Skills at Microsoft.

Dr. Kevin Marshall is the Head of Learning & Skills at Microsoft in Ireland and has worked in the technology industry for over 25 years. He is responsible for representing Microsoft to broad audiences for technology leadership, strategic alignment, and national skills policy. He is a frequent speaker at worldwide conferences and has been a regular contributor to various industry publications. He is the author of two books on technology and learning. He has a variety of degrees and post-graduate qualifications in measurement, statistics, digital policy. He is an alumnus of University College Dublin, University College Cork. He sits on several industry boards and Government forums focused on technology skills development and strategic planning.. 


Dr. Vivienne Patterson

Dr. Vivienne Patterson

Dr. Vivienne Patterson - Head of Skills, Engagement and Statistics at the HEA.
Vivienne has a degree in Zoology from UCC and a master’s in biotechnology and Doctorate of Science from DCU. In 2006 she joined the team at the Higher Education Authority as Head of Statistics where she led the Statistics Unit for 10 years. During that time Vivienne was responsible for transforming the communication of education data publishing a number of key reports.
Since becoming Head of Skills, Engagement and Statistics in 2016, her responsibilities include the management of both Springboard+, a national upskilling and reskilling programme and the oversight of national apprenticeships in higher education. In 2019, she implemented the Human Capital Initiative, a €300m investment in Agility and Innovation across the Irish Higher Education System. Vivienne led the establishment of the National Apprenticeship Office for the HEA in 2020. Her role in the HEA involves active strategic engagement with enterprise to strengthen the relationship between higher education promotion and future employment and innovation. She is a member of the CAO Board of Directors, the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs, the National Skills Council and the National Training Fund Advisory Group.

Sinead Heneghan

Sinead Heneghan

Sinead Heneghan - CEO, Learning & Development Institute.
Sinead has worked in senior roles with the Learning & Development Institute for many years. In her role as CEO, she leads the team to develop a high value member offer and the strategic alliance of the IITD with all stakeholders.
She has vast experience with Individuals, Corporates, Further and Higher Education Providers and State Agencies and has represented the industry in an influencing and Advocacy role for many years.
She holds an MBA from DCU, an MSc in Leadership & Change Management, a BA in Local and Community Development from Maynooth University and a Certificate in Training & Development. She has led the Institute's strategic development work and has overseen research and engagement with members to inform the ongoing development of the member offer and continuous professional development opportunities for practitioners.
She has served as a Board Member of IFTDO (International Federation of Training & Development Organisations) which represents more than 500,000 learning and development professionals in over 30 countries.
On a voluntary basis, Sinead strategically contributes to the work of Down Syndrome Ireland where she has represented and advocated at ministerial level, led fundraising campaigns delivering over €200,000 and contributed to doctoral research in the field of qualitative education provision for learners with special needs. She manages a heavily subsidised Speech & Language Therapy Service providing specialist interventions to over 70 people with Down Syndrome and manages a team of clinicians in this regard.

Dr Dale Whelehan

Dr Dale Whelehan

Dr Dale Whelehan - CEO, 4 Day Week Global.
I’m a Social Entrepreneur, Behaviour Scientist and Chief Executive Officer graduated from Trinity College Dublin with a diverse range of experience comprising human capital, organisational behaviour, management, change, culture, workforce experience, performance consulting, representation and rights and quality assurance.
I'm Chief Executive Officer of 4 Day Week Global. This is a not-for-profit organisation who are creating a million new years of free time. We provide a platform for like-minded people who are interested in supporting the idea of the 4 day week as a part of the future of work. The company to date has been involved in supporting international pilot studies exploring the feasibility of reduced working hours across different sectors and jurisdictions. Most recently, our team was named in TIME 100 Most Influential Companies of 2023 and the 4 Day Week campaign has been identified by Forbes as one of the most promising changes of 2023. We've discussed the benefits of a 4 Day Week through our work in several leading publications including The Atlantic, INSIDER, The New York Times, Bloomberg, Fast Company, BBC, Sky News, and Wall Street Journal.
We’re going truly global this year - and will expand the portfolio of work of the company, including partnerships with public and private sector entities, as well as large scale research into effectiveness of reduced working hours on personal, professional, and societal outcomes.
Colleagues know me as a dedicated theorist who has a blended mix of being idealist and realist. This is complimented through my role as a lecturer in organisational behaviour at UCD Smurfit Graduate School of Business. I’m motivated by building interventions grounded in science, and completed a a Doctor of Philosophy degree in the Behaviour Sciences with particular focus on optimising performance of elite industries through leveraging understanding of lifestyle and organisational factors. This culminated in 12 first author peer-reviewed articles.

Ife Alabi

Ife Alabis

Ife Alabi - Head of Research & Development at Innov8 Labs (Formerly Euro Pharma Concepts). Ife Alabi is the Head of Research and Development at the leading contract manufacturing company in Ireland- Innov8 labs, working to drive the companies development pipeline for a multitude of high calibre brands and retailers.  She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biochemistry from Queen Mary university of London and a Master of Science in Food Business Management and Technology from Technology University Dublin (TUD). Ife has over 12 years of invaluable R&D and Regulatory affairs experience in the FMCG, food, cosmetic, and chemical industries; working with and consulting on behalf of leading global companies through to SME’s giving her a unique and well-rounded skill set, as demonstrated in current and previous leadership positions.

Walter Balfe

Walter Balfe

Walter Balfe - Head of Quality Assurance for QQI Awards. Walter Balfe is Head of Quality Assurance for QQI Awards in QQI, Ireland’s qualifications authority and quality assurance agency for further and higher education. His role relates to provider and programme level accreditation where the programmes lead to QQI awards at any level of the NFQ. Walter has worked with QQI since 2012 and for 10 years before that in one of QQI’s predecessor agencies, FETAC, the Further Education and Training Awards Council. His entire professional background has been in education and training in a wide range of sectors and capacities – in provider / quality assurance agency / awarding body roles.