Tech job gains show Irish business's new face
IF the recent reports from the IDA and Enterprise Ireland showed us anything, it was the changing face of Irish business that stood out loud and clear.
Much as we would like to see old-fashioned manufacturing jobs be retained, the economy has clearly shifted to the hi-tech and services sector.
This government has conspicuously dropped the 'smart economy' phrase, which became a cliche under the last government, but the phrase holds true.
The IDA has been particularly active in attracting tech firms to Ireland. Last year the flagship move was undoubtedly PayPal's decision to create 1,000 jobs in Dundalk last February.
While those positions have not yet been created – they are being phased in over a number of years – as a statement of intent, it was clear.
IDA-backed companies created more than 12,000 jobs last year, while Enterprise Ireland had its best year since 2007. While the IDA hasn't yet broken down what sectors these new jobs came from, the hi-tech sector is likely to have been a major contributor.
In past 12 months, the IDA secured investments from the likes of HP, gaming firm EA Games and online storage firm DropBox.
Clearly though, much of the growth came in the payments area. PayPal was the marquee name in this respect, but the California-based firm Yapstone said it would open an international headquarters in Dundalk and look for 120 staff, while Dublin based OmniPay announced plans for 30 new staff in January this year.
Ireland is fast becoming a centre for payment processing around the world. When announcing the OmniPay jobs, IDA chief executive Barry O'Leary said Ireland now has a technological infrastructure that companies in that sector want to access.
"The growing number of payments companies locating in Ireland comes as a result of the IDA's strategy to focus on targeting particular industries and creating 'clusters'," he said.
The PayPal announcement in particular was rightfully trumpeted because of the size of the commitment the company was prepared to make.
Controversy soon ensued when it emerged that as many as 500 of the new staff would likely be recruited from overseas.
Head of the business in Ireland Louise Phelan, however, had no truck with the naysayers:
"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.
She has a point, and it was one echoed by numerous multinational executives over the course of the past 12 months. The dearth of modern languages in our secondary schools is almost as big an obstacle as our lack of aptitude in maths and science.
This is something that urgently needs to be put right.