I am acutely aware of the importance of ensuring an adequate flow of credit to SMEs, both for working capital and investment purposes. One of the commitments contained in the Action Plan for Jobs 2013 was for the SME State Bodies Group to "examine the practical steps that can be taken in the short and medium term by the State to improve the financial literacy of our micro and small enterprises". To this end, in Budget 2014 I announced a new initiative aimed at enhancing the skill sets of SMEs to improve their financial capabilities. In conjunction with Skillnets' ManagementWorks programme, a subsidised financial training programme for SMEs is under development which will assist them in putting together robust credit applications to lenders. The programme, consisting of 2 days dedicated off-site training together with expert mentoring support, will launch on a pilot basis early next year. The costs of delivery for training, mentoring and facilities are all subject to the outcome of a public procurement process and therefore subject to some variation. However, the estimated cost of introducing the scheme in 2014 is in the order of €750,000. It is anticipated that Government support for the initiative will reduce the cost to participating SMEs considerably.
This programme will add to the existing frameworks of credit support available to SMEs, thereby ensuring that viable businesses are better equipped to access credit more freely as the economy continues to recover.