I get that Friday feeling…

I don’t know how many of my regular readers know that the National College of Ireland where I work is located in the heart of Dublin’s International Financial Services’ Centre (IFSC). I have been heading up the School of Business here at NCI for 16 months and in that short time the IFSC is a much changed place. I remember coming here for my interviews in April and May 2008 and this was a busy part of the city. It was literally a hive of industry, the bars and restaurants were packed and the streets were teeming with the nouveau riche. Let’s put it another way-in a bar across the street from the College you’d pay 9 euro for a pint and the queue at the bar would be 5 deep! So when I arrived to take up my position as Dean of the School of Business in September 2008 the sub prime crisis was just bubbling to the surface, the financial markets were in melt down and the property market had gone into free fall. Let’s put it another way-the same bar across the street now only opens on selected nights and there might be 5 people in total there and you’d be hard pressed to pay 5 euro for a beer, and if you moved to a bar up the street a bit you might only have to pay 3 euro!

I remember when I lived in the Mid West that they used say that the RV (recreational vehicle-camper to you and me) industry was a barometer of the economy and in Ireland’s case the IFSC fills the same role. Some would argue and who am I to disagree that the green shoots of recovery are to be loosely discerned in the concrete streets of the IFSC. I travel daily on the Enterprise train between Dublin and Belfast and sit with a bunch of equally regular commuters who are all employed in the various financial houses around the IFSC and the ‘tales from the field’ if I might paraphrase Van Mannen are not so optimistic. Indeed, I am just done looking at the recent slide in the euro and it is not awe inspiring to say the least. Recovery will come dropping slowly but there are reasons to be cheerful Part 4!

So what do we do? Well we can lie down, roll over and put out the light or we can embrace the opportunities with which recession presents us. At NCI we are in the business of education, re-skilling and retraining and recession provides ample opportunity to provide innovative programmes to address the problems of the unemployed. One recent such example is an entrepreneurship programme that we developed for FÁS which was targeted at the highly educated recently unemployed. The course was aimed at encouraging the unemployed to explore the possibility of business creation and skilling them to do so. The participants on the programme were required to develop a plan for a business start-up and were provided with an opportunity to present this plan to an expert panel. That is only one such example but we have also developed a Certificate in Management for those from a range of sectors looking to retrain and a range of programmes in conflict resolution, employment law as well as in various aspects of the financial services sector(on the assumption that the darkest hour is just before the dawn!). Our distinct competitive advantage at the College is that we are small enough to be flexible and to be able to respond quickly to what the market needs. In summary we see the green shoots of recovery through a different lens, that of a photo-synthesis of growth in the myriad beams of opportunity that recession presents. Our business is to convert these beams into exciting and innovative products that allow us to complement our existing portfolio of offerings.

The lesson is a positive one as it is about the need to be upbeat in the face of adversity and to see the glass as half full. Adverse circumstances force us to question our own commitment to what we seek to do. For me the lesson is a simple one- we must be prepared to stick to what we said we would do when the mood in which we said it has long since past!