Government of Ireland
Regional Skills

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Regional Skills West Award Nominees 2020

11 December 2020 


After what has been a challenging year for all of us, we are delighted to spread a little joy by recognising those who gave so generously of their time to support skills development in the West Region. The nominees have, between them, secured major funding for the region, helped thousands of people left without work during the lockdown to continue their career development, supported small businesses in pivoting and developed cutting edge and innovative upskilling programmes. 

This year we have three awards:

  1. Exceptional Leadership Award
  2. Outstanding Contribution Award
  3. Special Upskilling Award

And the nominees are....



Their Achievement 

Mary Ann Fergus, Penn Engineering and Lorraine Thornton, GRETB

Developed a Level 5 manufacturing traineehip with GRETB so their lowest skilled operators could upskill for the first time. Now exploring other further upskilling opportunities for them and contributing to further course design via the Manufacturing Excellence group.



Barry Comerford, Cambus Medical

Was a driving force in initiating the Manufacturing Apprentice programme as chair of the sub-committee with the IMDA which was volunteer work and would have taken him away from his own work. Now exploring other further upskilling opportunities for them and contributing to further course design via the Manufacturing Excellence group.



Cormac Mac Donncha/Shane Coss at Thermoking in partnership with  Dr. Carine Gachon & the team at GMIT

Have invested significant time and effort in developing a B Eng in Advanced Manufacturing & Robotics with GMIT, which is open to students from other companies.  Invested in a €50 million cutting edge advanced robotics facility in Galway - rather than keeping it for their company, have opened it up for use in training employees of any other company in the region.



Bounce Back Recycling

Upskilled practically the entire small team of this SME (12 members) on digital skills and encouraging lifelong learning even in the middle of the C-19 pandemic. 

A series of Startup education webinars ran during Lockdown one. Validator ran 10 webinars including  - Startup Boards, Product Launch, MVP Tools & Tricks, Cap Tables, Lean Startup, Disciplined Entrepreneurship, Pitch Coaching, Grant Writing, Project Management and Accounting and Finance. These webinars created 12 hours of valuable content, all done on a voluntary basis. to this day we have inquiries to access the content and to continue with the communities requested topics. 

Over the 10 weeks more than 430 unique attendees from across Ireland joined the webinars, with over 60% returning for multiple sessions. 

The Validator initiative was started by Maurice O'Gorman and webinars delivered by experts within the Galway City Innovation District community. 

The Validator series provided an opportunity for those with an idea / or furloughed to explore what a startup would like and validate their idea. - Improving their entrepreneurial skills and potentially creating employment in the West of Ireland.



Sales Apprenticeship Consortium

The Sales Apprenticeship Consortium consists of an exceptional cohort of academic and business leaders who over the past 3 years collaborated to develop a new sales apprenticeship. The key objective was to design an innovative skills-based programme which would develop the knowledge, skills and competencies in the future leaders of the sales industry. Interest from industry has been exceptional with the first 2 intakes oversubscribed. 

 The CSG consists of:


Ger Teahon, CEO, SalesSense International, Galway 

Carol Murphy, Head of HR & Development, SalesSense, Galway 

Eoin Dunne, CEO PhoneWatch 

Margaret O' Shea, Training Manager, Society of the Irish Motor Industry

 George Ryan, COO, Fastrack into Technology 

Peter Egan, Director of FET, MSLETB 

Sean Burke, Area Training Manager, MSLETB

Siobhan Magner, National Programme Manager, Sales Apprenticeship, MSLETB

Brendan Geraghty, Academic Lead, MSLETB

Carol Dolan, New Apprenticeship Co-Ordinator, MSLETB 


Carl Blake, Galway Executive Skillnet

For rapidly reacting to the first lockdown and immediately organising a massive online programme of short courses to keep people upskilling while out of work.



Amanda Percy, and Thelma Donoghue  GRETB

Despite being new to the role, Amanda successfully rolled out EXPLORE digital skills training to 23 operatives from multiple companies in person despite all the lockdowns and rules. Her colleague Thelma found a way to deliver the training every time while respecting the C-19 guidelines.



Dr Ian O Connor, GMIT

Ian O’Connor’s contribution to the response to the skills needs in the West has been exceptional. In 2019/2020 Ian co-ordinated GMIT’s response to the new Human Capital Initiative and July Stimulus programmes. The complexity and short delivery schedule of these programmes made his task formidable. Ian inspired great collegiality and professionalism within GMIT, and between GMIT and its partners in Higher Education and Industry. He undertook wide ranging consultation with industry, regional skills fora and academic partners to ascertain their needs, and those arising from the changing labour market. Ian’s contributions helped GMIT and its partners to secure over €27m in programme funding that will support thousands of people in the west to improve their skills.


Dermot O’Donovan GMIT

Helped get the Irish Wood & Furniture Manufacturing Network up and running as an independent organisation, since its spin off from Regional Skills West 2 years ago. Undertook a major skills mapping process with companies and with Regional Skills West at start of 2020. Then organised weekly skills support sessions for up to 30 wood & furniture manufacturers who business was affected during the C-19 lockdown. Secured funded from enterprise Ireland for a Cluster Manager. All while continuing his own job and research.



Jonathan Levie (NUI Galway)/Monica Nielsen (GMIT)

Renate Kohlmann Consulting, Jamie Ralph Consulting, Darragh O Connor, (MHL Hotel Group)

For surmounting institutional  interests and coming together to chair Sales-Storming Sessions to help mentor and upskill up to 40 small businesses affected by C-19 in the summer. Through their efforts, alongside industry partners, they helped these small companies to pivot and maintain sales. 

For giving so generously of their time to help other small businesses with mentoring during the summer lockdown.