The MICRO OER is part of an Erasmus Plus European Project, led by IRL with Maynooth University and partners from 5 other EU Countries (Belgium, Greece, Italy, Macedonia and Spain). The focus of MICRO is to develop and deploy Open Educational Resources (OER) targeted at micro and craft type enterprises in rural areas, to foster their chances of growth and access to the EU single market and EU opportunities to ultimately enhance competitiveness.
Micro-enterprises are the engine of rural economies and are key to creating jobs in rural areas.
While there continues to be a push for foreign multinationals to locate to Ireland, the reality is that they are attracted to the cities and larger towns. In 2016, almost half of the IDA jobs created were located in the Dublin and Eastern region, with just over 10,000 and 4,000 jobs created in the Border and Midlands regions (IDA Annual Report 2016). Micro enterprises accounted for 92.2% of all enterprises in 2015 (CSO, 2017) and this figure is reflected across the 28 EU countries.
The conference was opened by Minister of State Sean Kyne, with guest speaker Brendan Mooney from the Northern and Western Assembly. Mooney highlighted the importance of micro-enterprises to the economy of Northern Western Regions in Ireland (NWRA), with 92.8% of enterprises registered as micro-enterprises in this region and the highest share of micro-enterprises in the state being in rural counties Roscommon and Leitrim. Micro-enterprises were further explored in a panel comprising Sheelagh Daly, Chair of Local Enterprise Offices and a number of rural entrepreneurs. Daly highlighted the importance of sufficient market research, getting the product right and financial support in ambition for growth among micro-enterprises. Geraldine Gray, Manager of The Leitrim Design House, highlighted the value of networks for rural craft & micro-enterprises in Leitrim, Brian Daly (Irishwebtv) referred to the increase in appreciation for online engagement and livestreaming in his journey of developing his online business and, with Richard Daly (Irish Pens), discussed their personal experiences of start-up enterprises.
Michael Kenny from the Department of Adult & Community Education at Maynooth University led a workshop on the MICRO project tools and Open Resource (OER) Training platform to a group of micro-enterprises, representatives from local and regional development companies, local enterprise offices and education practitioners. The MICRO OER is currently being tested in a pilot phase across all European partner countries, before being finalised later this year.
The Department of Adult and Community Education at Maynooth University is a leader in adult education research in Ireland and has an excellent international reputation for work in further education, higher education, adult guidance, community development and transformative learning. Participation in European and international research is part of the remit of the Department.