Fianna Fáil’s Business, Enterprise and Innovation Spokesperson, Billy Kelleher TD has warned that jobs will be put at risk if Ireland’s competitiveness is not addressed urgently.

Deputy Kelleher was commenting after a new report from the IMD business school in Lausanne, Switzerland shows a major fall off in Ireland’s competiveness rankings.

“To drop six places over the course of one year should act as a wake-up call to Minister Humphreys and the Government, like so many other economic warnings, I’ve no doubt that she will continue to stick her head in the sand and hope for the best.

“Hoping for the best isn’t the job of Government. The job of Government is to identify risk and to then mitigate against any and all risks. This is happening when it comes to competitiveness.

“Risks associated with Brexit and with infrastructural deficits have been broadly ignored by the Government, and now we are seeing the result of their wilful ambivalence.

“A major risk to our competitiveness, I believe, is a future skills shortage that is quickly coming down the tracks.

“In a recent PQ reply to me, the Government confirmed that they have no long term plan to address skills shortages in the economy. The Expert Group for Future Skills Needs (EGFSN) which advises government on current and future skills needs only forecasts demand over a five year period.

“The Government should be planning and putting policies in place to cover, at the minimum, 10-15 year intervals.

“Considering the time it takes to train people in various qualifications to respond to demographic changes e.g. healthcare, it would be obvious to most that we need to plan well into the future.

“It takes over a decade to train a medical consultant properly, and a plumber or electrician can take four years to be certified.

“The major mismatch between the skills our country needs and the graduates coming down the tracks is clearly demonstrated by the high number of work permits being offered to non-EEA workers who wish to move to Ireland for work.

“Last year, 4035 employment permits were renewed or granted for doctors and nurses – with 1,307 permits alone granted to software developers & programmers.

“Ireland’s skills shortages unaddressed will inhibit future growth and our ability to attract high level quality jobs and future FDI investment. Minister Humphreys cannot just assume that the Irish economy will continue to grow without Government direction and oversight,” concluded Kelleher.