Be not afraid – MBNA

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Its is easy for me to sit here and say this. I know it’s hard and scary when you are facing the prospect of being out of a job.

Its is easy for me to sit here and say this. I know it’s hard and scary when you are facing the prospect of being out of a job.

Mixed Blessings - Kevin Blessing

But here goes . . . if you are one of the staff at MBNA facing the prospect of losing a job, be not afraid. Why would I say that? What shred of evidence do I have? Not a lot.

But there is an increasing body of anecdotal evidence to suggest that the jobs market is on the turn with reports last week now telling us that the plane loads of Irish moving to Australia and Canada, which had become the norm in recent years, are now in decline.

In the first week of September 2014, consumer confidence and bond yields and stuff I don’t understand is all for once pointing in the one direction and that’s up.

In all fairness, I don’t think we could have gone on much longer with things continuing to get worse. I am hearing the little stories about people opening a new business, and it’s flying, about people now getting call backs and job offers with starting salaries of 35K per annum and about people now getting, wait for it, even the odd pay rise in their current role.

With the number on the live register at its lowest number since 2009, things are finally and eventually getting better in this little country of ours, thank feck. I know it’s going to be a long time before it all filters across from the east coast to the nooks and crannies of our little county.

There is never a good time to lose your job, it is a scary situation to find yourself in. And if it’s one you’ve been in for a while and you were comfortable and happy with, if it’s been a long time since you were on the jobs market, then it is downright terrifying, I know this because my own job was on the line earlier this summer - more about that later.

The last few years have taught us all a few hard lessons. And I want to take the time today to empathise with those working in Carrick-on-Shannon facing the prospect of losing their jobs, but also to remind them that this too can be a new opportunity in their lives.

Firstly, there has never been more entrepreneurial spirit in this country. Many people who have lost their jobs or companies in the last few years have started their own little business and many of these are thriving and booming and beginning to employ. The range of supports to help you start up a business has never been better. The Local Enterprise Offices (LEO) can and will fund new businesses and give you funding to make capital investments. The Innovation Centre at IT Sligo will give you a place to work and streamline you and your business concept onto a mentoring course or point you towards angel funding.

The Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment have a range of supports that will give you a wage while you start your new business, and even give you an experienced intern that can work alongside you to help you grow your business.

Some of those who have gone before you have taken this route, they have used these supports, they have got their businesses up and running and they are now employing people. In fact, that’s where a lot of the recovery of this country is coming from and where the future salvation of our jobs market and our country is coming from.

Small to medium sized enterprise (SME) is responsible for over 80% of employment in Ireland, and here in rural Ireland the figure is a lot higher. There is a saying doing the rounds at the moment “Geography is History”, which is meant to outline the point that you can do any job anywhere in the world these days, once you have connectivity.

Small smart micro businesses – that’s the way forward. And those of you who have been working in MBNA are uniquely equipped with a skill set that makes you ideal to innovate in this space. You have dealt with people overseas in different time zones and dealt with them remotely.

You have a track record of working in a structured environment and achieving targets and key performance indicators from activity levels to customer service. That’s a skillset that’s in demand.

Right now, the demand may not be in Carrick-on-Shannon for workers in a large call centre environment, but there are lots of small businesses that are growing and want people like you who can deliver results in a structured way, people who can hit the phones and grow relationships with clients.

The opportunities in training have also improved considerably in recent years .

If you have had enough of your current incarnation in work, this could be the opportunity to turn your career in a direction you have always wanted to take. Some friends of mine who have worked in MBNA in years past are now working in childcare, communications and the food industry.

We are pretty lucky in the North West to have IT Sligo on our doorsteps which has more than a few courses aimed at retraining people just like you into new careers where there are lots of work opportunities, quantity surveying, engineering, ICT skills; believe me, there are a lot of areas where they are screaming out looking to get people trained up and into jobs.

As you may be aware, we here at Ocean FM have recently had to face the prospect of not having jobs going forward if we had not retained the licence to broadcast for the next ten years. It gave me pause for thought and it made me have a look at the old jobs pages to see what was about.

Well, there were several opportunities, there were lots of things I could have turned my attention to but not a lot right here in the North West. Many of you in MBNA are still young and mobile and not too tied to living here in Leitrim.

You can go to the big smoke where there is any amount of work coming on stream, you can head down under where you might meet a bunch of pals that headed out there a few years ago, but in my opinion, you shouldn’t have to and perhaps you have ties that don’t allow you to up sticks and leave our wee county because of a mortgage or young family etc.

I firmly believe you should be able to stay and live and work here in Leitrim. And that, my friends, is the challenge we will face. But lets face it together, lets all work as a community to help get you guys set up in work, in training, in business and support you to stay here in Leitrim.

No government is going to fix this, no big multinational is going to ride into town and give us opportunities, we as a community and a county need to take responsibility for sorting out secure and exciting futures for you and your colleagues.

So be not afraid, we are in this together and we are all going to stand beside the workers of MBNA to help each and every one remain a valued member of our communities if they decide to stay here and give it a go.