THE SHORTAGE of Irish job seekers with relevant doctorates is a big problem for foreign companies operating here, a senior multinational executive has warned.
Japanese technology company Fujitsu, which employs 800 people here, revealed yesterday it has to hire most of the PhD-level experts for its Irish operations from abroad.
Anthony McAuley, head of research for Fujitsu Ireland, said there is a "disconnect" between Irish universities and professional research.
"What we need is a conveyor belt of experts," he told the Irish Independent. The answer is better universities which need better funding, he added.
Falling standards and funding problems in Irish universities, the abolition of post- graduate maintenance grants and students' reluctance to study courses that are most in demand by multinationals, like science degrees, all contribute to this problem.
The criticism comes just weeks after PayPal boss Louise Phelan warned about the quality of candidates here. PayPal has been forced to fill about half of the 1,000 jobs it created last year in Dundalk with foreign candidates, at a much higher cost.
"If suitable people are already here, then I want to hire them. However, the fact is there are unlikely to be many Turkish speakers, for example, walking around Dundalk," she said recently.
IDA Ireland CEO Barry O'Leary has previously urged students to choose college courses that will lead to the best job opportunities: biosciences, technology and financial services have all been tagged as growth areas. But the largest proportion of students still chose to study a humanities or social science degree in 2012.
Yesterday Mr O'Leary said that ensuring the necessary talent pool "remains a challenge for lots of European economies".
He was speaking alongside the Fujitsu research boss at an IDA Ireland event in Dublin. Mr McAuley said that all of the country's major third level institutions should be in the top 100 list of best universities in the world.
Currently only Trinity makes that list, at 67th in the QS World University Rankings 2012.
To do this, he said: "We have to attract leading people who command salaries that are just not possible with the way Irish universities are currently structured."
He said the governance of Ireland's state-owned universities must be scrutinised and he referred to the success of top US institutions which are privately owned and managed and source their own funding.