A range of initiatives in the Communications and Energy sectors are in place to promote competitiveness and productivity and stimulate youth employment.
Under the Action Plan on Jobs, my Department is committed to a number of measures and policies which will be central to the objective of maximising the country’s growth potential, bringing about economic recovery and creating employment.
The following specific measures will assist in job creation, including for young persons.
Last week I launched the National Digital Strategy which aims to help Irish business gain competitiveness by having access to new markets and a wider customer base. The objective is to get 10,000 Irish businesses online for the first time and to achieve a further 2,000 small Irish businesses trading online over a period of two years. New research, commissioned as part of the National Digital Strategy, shows that the digital economy now accounts for 4.4% of GDP and supports 95,000 jobs.
The Government’s National Broadband Plan, which I published last August, will facilitate the provision of high speed broadband to every home and business in the State and should help smaller non-urban businesses to realise the full potential of trading in a digital economy.
My Department is also co-funding an investment programme with the Department of Education and Skills to deliver 100Mbps to all second level schools. This investment is facilitating innovative learning and helping second level students develop the key skills required in the current and emerging jobs markets. The Digital Hub Development Agency is also funding a Future Creators Programmes which provides computer programming and digital media training for second level students.
In the energy area, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland operates a number of grant programmes under the Better Energy programmatic banner that stimulate employment in the constructions and retrofit sectors. The 2013 Budget for the Better Energy programme is €55 million which will result in the creation and retention of approximately 1,500 jobs. In addition, plans are at an advanced stage to establish an Energy Efficiency Fund, which will provide finance to energy efficiency projects in the public and commercial sectors. The fund will seek to disburse project finance and in the process will have a positive impact on job creation and retention.
My Department is also developing a Better Energy Financing/Pay As You Save (PAYS) scheme which will allow consumers to finance energy upgrades directly through the energy savings generated. Roll out will be developed following comprehensive consultation with all stakeholders and will aim to continue supporting jobs in green construction and retrofit.
Question No. 29 answered with Question No. 23.