Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Questions (138)

John Lyons

Question:

136 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will consider working closely with the small and medium enterprise sector to highlight the value of foreign language capability in developing export growth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35696/12]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

Driving export growth is central to our economic recovery and is a key focus of the Government's Action Plan for Jobs. In March 2012, Enterprise Ireland (EI) established the Potential Exporters Division, as one of the key measure in the Action Plan for Jobs. Its role is to stimulate greater activity within companies across all regions and to reorient those demonstrating real growth potential from the domestic to the international market place.

From Enterprise Ireland's perspective, exporting companies need to continuously assess and develop their capabilities in a broad range of areas including inter-cultural communications and Cultural Awareness including language skills with priorities in German, French, Spanish, Mandarin and Russian.

The lack of foreign language skills among some Irish companies can be an inhibitor to their ability to secure and grow new customer opportunities, and deepen business opportunities with existing customers, suppliers, partners and key buying influencers in non-English speaking markets.

The Key Skills for Enterprise to Trade Internationally Report published by Forfás and the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN) on 22 June 2012, highlighted that Ireland’s SME base lags behind the rest of Europe in terms of their awareness of the need for foreign language skills to accelerate international growth opportunities and that, over recent years, the supply of graduates with foreign language skills has diminished.

Enterprise Ireland was closely involved in the assessment of the future skills needs in this area and the above Report's preparation through its membership of the steering group and arranging the participation on the Group of a number of its client companies. Enterprise Ireland strongly supports the recommendations of the Report in relation to the development of strategic marketing capability amongst its SME client companies and the call for Ireland to further strengthen our multi-lingual workforce.

Against this background, Enterprise Ireland continuously witnesses the positive impact on credibility and sustained export growth for those Irish companies that have invested in bringing the language skills into the company or developing them within.

One of Enterprise Ireland's current initiatives is the Graduates 4 International Growth Programme (G4IG), which is focused on matching graduates with Irish companies seeking to develop in international markets. G4IG supports companies through the recruitment, assessment and training of graduates in International Business.

Graduates are recruited on an 18 month contract of which 6 months is spent in Ireland undergoing academic and on the job training followed by 12 months in an overseas market. Graduates participating on this Programme have, through their overseas placements, the opportunity to enhance and strengthen their language and inter-cultural skills to the benefit of the sponsor companies as well as improve their own capabilities.

G4IG will remain the primary focus for EI in this regard, and is meeting the demand from Irish companies currently for this support (128 graduates were placed in the first two phases of programme). Phase Three of the Programme is currently under way with a target of 80 graduates to be placed in Irish companies from September 2012 onwards.