Ex-Crystal workers team up with the Enterprise Boards to grow business.

Following the closure of Waterford Crystal Ltd and the layoff of most of the workforce, the European Parliament approved Ireland’s application for assistance under the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) for those redundant workers.

The EGF fund encompasses over 650 workers made redundant at the Waterford Crystal Kilbarry plant and in ancillary enterprises in 2009. The EGF application is for just under €4m, of which the Government is providing almost €1.4m, with the remainder coming from the EGF.

The measures which the EGF fund can be used for include supports for retraining, up skilling, enterprise development and educational opportunities. The whole project is overseen by a steering group under the chairmanship of City Manager Michael Walsh.

Almost 250 redundant workers have availed of training places to date in disciplines as diverse as computing, warehousing, welding, forklift and HGV driving as well as external courses supported through the FÁS technical employment support grant. The aim of these supports is to better enable redundant workers to augment existing craft skills with broader or additional skill sets with a view to their accessing, or being ready to access, employment opportunities as they arise.

The Vocational Education Committees, Enterprise Ireland and the City and County Enterprise Boards are also offering a range of educational and enterprise supports to former workers in areas such Start Your Own Business, Childcare studies, Business courses and ECDL. Quite a few redundant workers have started their own businesses and receive business advice and business mentoring on a regular basis from the City & County Enterprise Boards.

One such ex Crystal worker to avail of EGF funding is Kevin Lonergan, proprietor of Cupcake Heaven, which provides specialist gourmet cupcakes to a diverse range of markets in Waterford and the South East.

Kevin was contracted to Waterford Crystal through the RPS Group, as maintenance fitter for 15 years. Of 5 of those 15 years, Kevin served as team leader with a team of 30 staff.

Having been made redundant from Waterford Crystal in January 2009, Kevin and his wife Fiona explored the possibility of starting their business. Following extensive research into the market, a niche for a specialist gourmet cupcake provider was recognised.

Through the EGF, Kevin has received an employment grant, extensive business and marketing mentoring and capital funding from Waterford City Enterprise Board. To date Cupcake Heaven has garnered a reputation for supplying and providing quality, unique produce, made predominantly from locally sourced produce throughout the region.

Since it was established in March 2010 Cupcake Heaven is an integral part of the city’s markets including the Ardkeen Artisan Market, the Waterford City Market, The Dunmore East Food Festival and The Waterford Harvest Festival. Cupcake Heaven’s produce also proved a big hit at The Mayor’s Tea Party, Bank of Ireland Enterprise Week and Ladies Day at the Tramore Races. Weddings, christenings, communions and major family events are also popular events for Cupcake Heaven.

Acting CEO of Waterford City Enterprise Board Ciaran Cullen is optimistic yet realistic about the European Globalisation fund’s potential. Mr. Cullen commented “The fund has been a great success for those that availed of it. Over thirty attended Start Your Own Business Courses which were especially developed of the EGF eligible workers and over twenty new businesses have started in the City alone. My only regret is that more eligible workers haven’t been in a position to take up the assistances that were on offer.”

The City and County Enterprise Boards originally only allocated €200,000 in grant aid to assist 20 eligible Waterford Crystal workers to become self employed in the original application to the European Globalisation Fund. The EGF steering Committee actually increased this application and approved €950,000 and spent to date over €500,000 which in real terms translates to assisting 45 businesses creating approximately 60 new jobs.

Other Waterford businesses benefiting from their association with the EGF and the Enterprise Boards are Insight Training and Professional Services, and B&E Limited in Waterford city and in the county Radiance Crystal and Gene O’Shea.

Mr. Cullen added that for those who still qualify for EGF funding it is not too late to get assistance from the Enterprise Boards and the other EGF bodies.

“We are giving the EGF fund one last big push to see if there are more workers that might take their idea, allow us to guide them through mentoring and help them to apply for the funding to take this once in a lifetime chance to create a job for themselves. We won’t be able to take any further applications after Friday June 10th so I would encourage everyone that is eligible to contact us”, said Mr. Cullen.

For information regarding the fund and its criteria people are asked to contact the EGF co-ordinator for Waterford, John Nunn. John can be contacted on 051-304951.