Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Wednesday, 8 December 2021
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation
Skills Needed to Support the Economic Recovery Plan: Discussion
Dr. Alan Power:
I thank the Deputy. Mr. Donohoe has pre-empted much of what I was going to say in terms of the key graduate programmes out there, in particular the IBEC programme. Enterprise Ireland has the GradStart programme, under which it provides 70% subsidisation for the hiring of a person with language skills to put into firms so that Ireland can focus directly on internationalisation. When Languages Connect was being developed, Enterprise Ireland informed the target languages that would best serve Ireland's trade interests. There are a range of languages, including the traditional modern languages in a European sense such as Portuguese and, also, Korean, Japanese, Mandarin, Arabic and so on.
It is particularly important for the indigenous firms that are more regionally dispersed and more focused on the UK market to expand their horizons. That is very much in tandem with the eurozone strategy that Enterprise Ireland is trying to promote at the moment. In terms of those firms in the Irish economy that are more globally focused, they would tend to be in the foreign direct investment sector. They need levels of language competency that are very much of native level proficiency and so they tend to import that level of proficiency indirectly. The last survey that was done in Ireland in early 2010 showed that only 20% of the Irish population are comfortable speaking another language other than English. It is with a view to expanding that pool.
I am sure Mr. Donohoe will agree that many firms do not know what they do not know, especially in the SME sector. Enterprise Ireland is actively trying to promote the adoption of languages as a key skills set. In certain surveys that we are conducting at the moment, it is coming up as a key issue as these firms are trying to expand further into the eurozone market and into markets further afield. It is the old adage as well that one can have a first meeting in English in overseas markets, but one will not necessarily get a second. One needs to show that respect and to have the cultural awareness and recognition of those nuances, which one only really gets through having somebody who has the requisite kind of languages in the firm.
There is a lot of promotional work ongoing at present, but we are dealing with a significant cultural issue. Traditionally, in terms of our emigration outlets, it has always been to the English speaking world. We are expanding more in the context of the destinations people go to now. It will be a slow burner, but work is actively going on at present to try to expand the enterprise base.