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October 22, 2014
Irish Job-Seekers Missing Out Due to Lack of Language Skills


Wednesday, 22nd October 2014

Irish Job-Seekers Missing Out Due to Lack of Language Skills

With Europe on our doorstep, job-seekers and small to medium businesses in Ireland are missing out on valuable career and business opportunities by neglecting to invest in foreign language skills. That’s according to Tony Donohoe, Head of Education Policy at IBEC, who was speaking today (22.10.14) during a panel discussion on the importance of investing in language learning.

The event, entitled ‘Winning Abroad: Ireland’s Struggle with Foreign Languages’, was organised by EIL Intercultural Learning, as part of a year-long programme of events marking the organisation’s 50th year in Ireland. EIL Intercultural Learning organises study abroad, volunteering, language training, travel scholarships and cultural immersion activities, with over 2,000 people participating in its programmes each year. Today’s event highlighted the need for language learning to be addressed by both Irish job-seekers and employers alike.

“Over 70 per cent of the world’s population do not speak English and only nine per cent speak English as their first language,” said Tony Donohoe. “If we neglect to ensure adequate availability of foreign language skills in Ireland, the opportunities of the global market-place will not be realised.”

Director of EIL Intercultural Learning, Kevin Hickey, also spoke from the event, saying, “As it stands, large numbers of multinationals and tech giants – such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Paypal –have chosen to make Ireland their headquarters not only for their European operations, but for the entire Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) market. The reason that many of these organisations cite for choosing Ireland over anywhere else is our strong reputation for a highly skilled and highly educated workforce.”

“In recent years, we have been seeing a growing demand for skilled professionals with strong language capabilities to fill the large number of roles aimed at targeting non-English-speaking markets specifically. However, due to a lack of language capabilities among the vast majority of the skilled Irish workforce, many of these jobs are being outsourced.

“Right now, Ireland is the only country in Europe where the learning of a foreign language in post-primary education is optional and, if that remains the case, this problem will surely perpetuate. In order to maintain our reputation as a desirable location for major multinational firms – and build upon it to achieve future economic growth – it is imperative that we develop our foreign language skills.  By promoting and investing in language learning now, we will ensure we are not at a competitive disadvantage in terms of our ability to attract further foreign direct investment in the future.”

Today’s EIL Intercultural Learning panel discussion was chaired by Joe Humphreys, Education Correspondent for The Irish Times.  In addition to Tony Donohoe, panellists included:

  • Joanna Tuffy TD, Chairperson of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Social Protection.
  • Philippe Milloux, Director of Alliance Française de Dublin and Chief Representative of Alliance Française in Ireland.
  • Karen Ruddock, National Coordinator of the Post-Primary Languages Initiative at the Department of Education and Skills.
  • Tanya Flanagan, Communications Officer and Second Level Representative for One Voice for Languages; and language teacher at St. Farnan’s Post-Primary School, in Naas, Co. Kildare.
  • Seánaí Kiely, law student at Trinity College, Dublin, and past participant on an EIL study abroad programme.

Kevin Humphreys TD, Minister of State at the Department of Social Protection with special responsibility for Employment, Community and Social Support, delivered a welcome address before the panel discussion commenced. “This discussion is extremely timely, given that a public consultation on a ‘Foreign Languages in Education’ strategy for Ireland is currently being rolled out by my colleagues at the Department of Education and Skills, and is due to come to a close at the end of this month.

“If Irish job-seekers and employers are to be able to compete internationally for jobs and business, then investing time and money in language learning is vital.

“I look forward to seeing how this discussion and consultation play out, and to continuing to work towards ensuring adequate investment in language learning over the coming years.”

EIL Intercultural Learning is part of the worldwide non-profit Experiment in International Living (EIL) Federation, and is now Ireland’s oldest intercultural learning organisation.

For further information on EIL Intercultural Learning, visit: www.eilireland.org.


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