Irish people's language skills are one of the main obstacles to Irish companies getting the most out of the growing Chinese market, Enterprise Ireland chief executive Julie Sinnamon has said.
Ms Sinnamon said companies need some minimum level of Chinese in order to be taken seriously in the country, but that "there is nobody currently learning Mandarin for Leaving Cert."
"You have to get it either yourself or recruit it, have people with you to translate, you can't even make it from the airport to your hotel without having somebody there who speaks Chinese."
"There is an opportunity in China and many other high-growth markets which at this stage isn't really an optional extra for many companies, there's massive growth there and we have to capitalise on it," Ms Sinnamon said.
Her comments came at the Deloitte/Enterprise Ireland CEO forum being held at Dublin Castle this morning.
Also speaking at the event was Jobs Minister Richard Bruton, who said internationalisation of Irish businesses has "been the challenge over the last number of years and will remain the challenge for several years to come."
He said Irish entrepreneurs have risen to the challenge and have "absolutely taken up the message that we need to internationalise."
"Irish business is going further to find markets, is diversifying in its markets...we're competing with the very best [and] we can meet and beat the competition in markets as far away as China or India."
The conference also heard that access to credit also remains a hurdle for Irish businesses.