independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

PayPal forced to 'import' 500 workers and warns of language skills crisis

Louise Phelan: expensive to bring in foreign staff

THE online company that announced 1,000 new jobs in February yesterday said it is having trouble finding Irish workers with the necessary language skills.

Instead, PayPal has been forced to 'import' employees from abroad -- 500, or half of those required -- at a far higher cost.

Global operations vice-president Louise Phelan warned that we need to focus on language skills here to protect our status as a European gateway.

She said Ireland suffered from a "deficiency" in workers with second languages. "We are a gateway to Europe but we need to ensure we are supporting the languages. Absolutely there is a deficiency in languages in Ireland. I am bringing in 50pc of our language cover I require from 19 other countries."

Ms Phelan said the education system required a grassroots change to ensure future workers had the language and science qualifications the business world needed.

She highlighted current gaps in the number of people who speak German, Dutch and Nordic languages, and said alternative employee sourcing has been introduced -- but at a greater expense to the company.

"I have to give them relocation, pay for their travel, their board for seven to 10 days to get them in here," she said. "That shouldn't be a cost to the industry; the education system should have them groomed for me."

Promoting

Ms Phelan was speaking at the launch of the Louth Economic Forum's action plan on education and training at the Dundalk Institute of Technology yesterday.

She said she was still promoting Ireland as a location for foreign direct investment but stressed the need to address the language problem.

Following PayPal's announcement that it would create 1,000 jobs in Dundalk, 62 have been taken on so far, with the number set to hit 270 by year-end.

Reacting to her comments last night, the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation said that it took all such concerns very seriously.

In a statement, it said it "constantly monitors the skills needs of multinational companies which have invested, or are considering investing, here".

This relates in particular to guidance it receives from the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs, which identifies requirements for investment growth.

"Concerns expressed by companies are taken very seriously. A variety of new measures were introduced through the Action Plan for Jobs 2012 and further measures are currently being considered as part of the process of formulating the Action Plan for Jobs 2013."

A spokesman for the IDA said it was acutely aware that multi-nationals often needed bilingual staff. "The general history of staffing up such centres here is very good," he said.

"In those cases where the languages needed are very broad-based, companies may recruit in the wider European market."

Irish Independent

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