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IFSC local job scheme up and running for 300 financial services careers Back
‘Progressions’ a workplace initiative pioneered by the National College of Ireland, with the support of founding partner State Street and other IFSC companies, aims to create 300 jobs in financial services for inner city communities. We profile some of its earliest successes, and report on the observations of new NCI President, Dr Philip Matthews on the programme
Legendary jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald once said, “…it isn’t where you come from, it’s where you’re going that counts.”

‘Progressions is about opportunity,’ says Dr. Phillip Matthews, President of National College of Ireland (NCI). ‘We know the Celtic Tiger did not impact every community in Dublin evenly. We know that in the Docklands and immediate vicinity we still see high unemployment rates and low levels of educational attainment. We also know that people need a helping hand to reach their full potential - and that’s exactly what Progressions will achieve and that’s exactly what our goal is at NCI - to help people get where they’re going.’
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Pioneered by NCI in association with Institute of Bankers, Irish Funds Industry Association and the Irish Banking Federation, and with Founding Partner State Street, and in collaboration with FAS, Progressions was launched in 2008.

Progressions - ‘Learning That Works for Financial Services’ is an intensive 12 to 14-week training programme that boosts employment pathways for up to 300 unemployed people with a unique combination of vocational and professional skills, FETAC-accreditation, in-classroom experience and a corporate work placement.

National College of Ireland was founded in 1951 as the Workers College and has been at the forefront of worker education and training, human and industrial relations and community access to higher education. Since then, 50,000 students have attended NCI in Ranelagh, or many off-campus sites, and in the last eight years at its iconic 2.5-acre campus in the heart of the IFSC at Mayor Square.
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Today, NCI is actively seeking solutions to the growing unemployment challenge. ‘Right now, over 400,000 people are unemployed in Ireland,’ says Neal Newman, director of the NCI Foundation. ‘One way we can directly address the problem and ensure we remain competitive, is to work closely with our institutional partners State Street, Citi, Axis, Investec, Invesco, Pioneer Investments, Ace European Markets, Transamerica, Cpl, BNP Paribas, Cardinal Capital Group, Wells Fargo Bank, HSBC, JP Morgan Chase, Citco, Atradius, Bank of New York Mellon, Willis and IIU to take coordinated action. Along with FAS and the Department of Social Protection, Progressions will reach up to 300 people over three years who want jobs in financial services and help develop their skills and confidence to go for them.’

‘We support this programme because we believe in supporting the local community, and an education programme that facilitates the entry into financial services of people who might not otherwise get such an opportunity. Progressions is the best way to achieve this,’ says William Slattery, country head, State Street Ireland.

Competitiveness is one of the most critical challenges facing Ireland now, and certainly in financial services and related sectors. Competition is fierce and many emerging low-cost jurisdictions are gaining ground. The solution to boosting competitiveness is to maintain a skilled and adaptable workforce that is ready to change with the times.

‘Progressions offers us a durable gateway through which industry collaborates with higher education and interacts with local communities and employment organisations to create and sustain jobs,’ says Matthews.

Progressions is deeply rooted in the best practice of European and North American workforce development strategies. ‘In the States, the most innovative workforce strategies are coming straight from education and industry consortiums, exactly how Progressions was formulated in Ireland,’ says Matthews.
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In partnership with selected Local Employment Services (LES) offices and FAS, candidates are identified, pre-screened and referred to NCI. With HR representatives from industry-stakeholders, large numbers of candidates are interviewed and 25 or so selected for each quarterly course. Students who meet criteria are eligible to retain Job Seekers Allowance through FAS for the course. Demand is high.

The in-classroom experience is designed to be challenging. Nine FETAC accredited modules take students through basic business administration training plus ICT and communication skills at the start. As the course proceeds, more detailed studies in business calculations, customer service and funds administration help develop specialist skills for Progressions students.

‘The course was great. All NCI staff were so friendly and helpful. Now that I have found employment I look back and can say it was hard, but worth the effort,’ says Georgeta Salion, a 33-year old graduate of Progressions now working with Investec.

‘Combining the intensive in-classroom experience with a real-life work placement is proving to be a great success. Our students are challenged in many new ways and equally, our employer-partners must also extend themselves so that our students get engaged in their work environment with meaningful learning opportunities,’ says Michele Ryan, dean of the School of Community Studies.

As Ireland is facing a difficult period of job losses across all industrial sectors including financial services, every job gained is a success story. To date, 12 per cent of Progressions students have obtained positions with State Street, Citi, Investec and Sun Life. An additional 20 per cent of Progressions students report employment in other sectors like retail. And a further 17 per cent of Progressions students are continuing their education and progressing their careers.
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In spite of challenging economic circumstances and a lot of hard work, the vast majority of students surveyed credit Progressions with opening up new opportunities and restoring their self-confidence to get back into the workforce or further education.

‘Progressions is making an immediate impact now, and what is equally exciting is the long-term success story - that we’ve built a successful model of community-education-industry collaboration that will help create and sustain jobs and encourage local investment in the IFSC and Docklands communities for years to come,’ says Matthews.
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