Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Ceisteanna - Questions - Priority Questions
Enterprise Support Services Provision
4. To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation how his Department will seek to support Irish-owned manufacturing firms to achieve growth in the domestic and export markets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48393/14]
Our manufacturing sector is under huge pressure at present while gaining from the so-called recovery. What actions is the Department taking in regard to costs and ensuring that we have a proper skills base for any growth that takes place? What supports is the Minister willing to put in place for start-up manufacturing industries around the country?
As Deputy Calleary knows, the Minister, Deputy Bruton, commissioned a major report on the strategy for the manufacturing sector, which was published in April 2013. The strategy identifies an additional 20,000 jobs that can be created in manufacturing by 2016 and proposes key actions across a range of areas, including access to new funding, management training and support, cost reduction, the adoption of technology, and the implementation of a national step change initiative. The key issues arising from this strategy are being pursued through the Action Plan for Jobs process. In addition to developing the manufacturing strategy, the Government has also initiated research on the specific skills needs of the manufacturing sector up to 2020, and this work was completed in 2013 by the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs. That report identifies what needs to be done regarding training and skills development for the sector. A wide range of recommendations are made and work is already under way to address some of the recommendations in that report.
Under action 49 of the Action Plan for Jobs 2014, Enterprise Ireland is tasked with specifically identifying and working with a group of mid-sized manufacturing firms - initially 12 - to secure their commitment to achieve significant growth over the next five years. Management development, benchmarking and strategic reviews and lean business programmes will form the basis of this suite of supports. This action has already been delivered. Furthermore, a targeted call for innovation vouchers for the manufacturing sector also took place.
Further commitments specifically relating to manufacturing sector and focusing on competitiveness, access to finance and supply chain opportunities will be continued in the Action Plan for Jobs 2015, which will be launched early in the new year.
As the Deputy knows, the manufacturing base is very diverse and includes companies in the food, construction materials, medical devices and engineering sectors. Many of the supports required or sought by Irish-owned manufacturing companies are relevant for companies across the indigenous enterprise base. To assist both manufacturing and internationally traded service companies in achieving growth, Enterprise Ireland provides the supports for internationalisation, access to finance, capability and management development, competitiveness, innovation and so on.
How many of the 20,000 jobs that were due to be created by 2016, which is only a year from now, have been created? On skills needs, feedback is beginning to come through from employers in manufacturing, but also across all areas, is that it is getting more difficult and costly to find the skills they need as the economy grows.
Third, we had a discussion with the Minister, Deputy Richard Bruton, about costs, in particular State-controlled costs, about which the Government has done nothing. It has been highlighted by the National Competitiveness Council, for example, that nothing has been done about energy or legal costs.
On access to finance, I again welcome the improvements in the terms of Microfinance Ireland, but we are now at the end of a parliamentary session in which we were promised reform of the credit guarantee scheme, which is particularly relevant to manufacturing. Where is that legislation? It was due to be passed before the end of the session. It is a particular support that manufacturing needs.
Manufacturing has been an important sector in Ireland since the 1960s when it was ramped up. However, there has been a noticeable decline in employment in the sector in recent years and, in fact, dating back to the 1980s. There has been a similar trend across the developed world; other industrialised countries such as Germany, the USA, the Netherlands and Korea have experienced similar rates of decline. Employment in the sector in Ireland suffered a major shock between 2008 and 2010 when approximately 50,000 people lost their jobs. However, in 2011 and 2012 there was a net increase of 3,700 jobs in the sector and that trend is continuing. Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland figures show that 211,100 people are directly employed in the sector. Nonetheless, there is undoubtedly a challenge around skills availability, something the Minister of State, Deputy Damien English, is addressing. In terms of-----
I want to reiterate my original questions. Where are we in reaching the 20,000 target to be achieved by 2016 and with regard to the credit guarantee scheme? What are the Minister of State's views on the cost base which is directly within the control of the State and State agencies, given that it will impinge on the Government's efforts in reaching any employment target if it is allowed to continue as it is?
There have been increases in manufacturing, particularly in the agri-business and food sectors. There would have been a concern about the patent cliff, but pharma is performing extremely well, too, as we can see in the job announcements made recently. Early in the new year Enterprise Ireland will launch its results for this year and I expect them to be very positive. I do not have available the precise figures the Deputy is seeking, but I will forward them to him.
To return to the skills piece, an apprenticeship call will be made very shortly because there is a gap. This will be important across the country in providing opportunities for young people to have a career in manufacturing and try to address the skills needs the industry has identified to me, the Minister, Deputy Richard Bruton, and others. Of particular importance is the need to address the pinch-points in apprenticeships, for example, in the case of polymers and tool-making, to set out and promote career paths in manufacturing. We will be working very closely with industry, SOLAS and the education and training boards to address the manufacturing skills supports the industry needs.