Creating employment depends on home-grown talent
Rebecca Butler is 22 years old, from Streete, Co Westmeath. Earlier this year, she decided to leave her job, and instead create a job.
She started a business growing and selling animal feed to the farming industry. Uniquely, the feed she produces is grown indoors, using technology that means it is unaffected by unpredictable Irish weather. The business is at its early stages, but she plans to create 10 more jobs over the next 12 months in her local area, an area of high unemployment.
Rebecca is one of the heroes of our economic recovery. Two thirds of all new jobs in Ireland are created by start-ups in the first five years of existence. Government has a part to play, and we are doing our bit through the hundreds of new initiatives and supports which we are driving through the Action Plan for Jobs, such as the competition to find Ireland's Best Young Entrepreneur that Rebecca is taking part in.
But without people like Rebecca, thousands of them across the country, willing to take the risks involved in creating new businesses, creating three, 10, 25 jobs, there would be little or no employment recovery.
Thankfully, that jobs recovery is not only continuing, but is deepening and broadening across the country. Official figures from the Central Statistics Office - published yesterday around the same time Rebecca and 23 other young entrepreneurs were visiting my Department to meet the competition judging panel - have confirmed that the jobs growth is spreading right across the country.
In its early stages in 2012 and 2013, the jobs recovery was being led by the exporting parts of the economy. As part of our plan, with domestic demand on the floor after the recession, we focused on the exporting businesses supported by the IDA and Enterprise Ireland, as well as the tourism sector.
We cut the VAT rate on the tourism industry, we doubled the number of trade missions and provided extra resources to the IDA and Enterprise Ireland - and in those years we saw record numbers of jobs created by these organisations and the tourism businesses.
As we moved to the second phase of the recovery, we brought a greater focus to the domestic economy, with a new construction plan and a range of new tax measures to support SMEs and start-ups, like Rebecca's business.
That is why it is very encouraging to see figures confirm that the domestic economy is now driving the jobs recovery. Sectors like retail and construction are now accounting for most of the jobs growth - in the last three months, 60pc of the jobs growth happened in those two areas alone.
Every region of the country is now experiencing jobs growth, with strong performances happening in regions outside the major cities which have suffered greatly over recent years - including the midlands. Particularly strong performances have been seen in the Border region, the South East, and right the way along the western seaboard.
There are other trends revealed by the figures which are hugely encouraging. While in the initial phases of the recovery much of the jobs growth was part-time as employers dipped their toes back into the expansion market, now 94pc of the growth is in full-time jobs.
The jobs growth continues to benefit people who are unemployed. The unemployment rate now has dipped below 11pc for the first time since March 2009. Long-term unemployment, while also still too high, continues to decrease. Joan Burton's Pathways to Work strategy is having a major impact.
When losses in the public sector are taken into account, almost 100,000 jobs have been added in the private sector since the Action Plan for Jobs was launched.
With almost 11pc unemployment and emigration still happening, we have a long way to go. Too many people are still not feeling the benefits of the improvements that are happening.
However, the figures published yesterday by the Central Statistics Office confirm once again that we are on the right path.
Eighty thousand extra people are at work today compared to when we launched and started implementing the Action Plan for Jobs in early 2012. The measures announced in last month's Budget - in particular the reductions in income tax - will not only put more money back in people's pockets but will also support even greater job-creation.
People can have confidence that if we stick to the plan, the sacrifices of recent years will not be wasted, and we can support a sustainable, consistent economic recovery right across the country in the coming years. And brave entrepreneurs like Rebecca will able to start and grow businesses right across the country and create the jobs we need.
Richard Bruton is Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation