In a move designed to ease the skills shortage in the economy, the Government has announced that it is to fully recognise Chinese higher education qualifications by the end of the year. The agreement to be signed with the Chinese authorities will also allow Irish people to seek posts in China relevant to their qualifications.
Making the announcement yesterday at the European Consortium of Accreditation summer workshop in Dublin, Séamus Puirseil, chief executive of the Higher Education and Training Awards Council (Hetac), said: “The Irish were treated with great generosity of spirit when they went abroad to live and work. Now there is an obligation on us to show the same generosity to the thousands of workers from abroad who are coming here.
“Our economic prosperity has created great wealth and a demand for labour that cannot be met from our own population. The new entrants to our workforce from overseas are a valuable asset to our economy and society. But they must not be confined to menial or low-level jobs when they have qualifications that will increase their earning potential and career development.”
Puirseil continued: “A laboratory technician from Poland or a nurse from Latvia, for example, should not be confined to low-paid, repetitive employment in Ireland because their qualifications are not recognised. People should not come to Ireland and be forced into the sort of jobs we are not prepared to do. If foreign workers have qualifications, they are entitled to do the jobs they are qualified for.”
He added that Ireland had a “moral and legal obligation” to help people from poorer countries to maximise their personal development and use their skills to the highest level.
In a telephone interview afterwards with siliconrepublic.com, Puirseil said the move would likely be of most benefit to the IT sector, which is currently reporting significant skills shortfalls but that other sectors such as engineering and business in general might also benefit.
He noted that US scientific research had benefited enormously from the number of Chinese researchers working there and that Ireland could similarly benefit from an influx of highly qualified Chinese scientists. He added that retaining postdocs within the economy would be of particular benefit to Ireland.
The Irish and Chinese governments signed a memo of understanding on the issue of qualification recognition during the historic Irish trade mission to China in January. Government officials from both camps are now working together to iron out the detail with the aim of signing a formal mutual recognition agreement by the end of the year.
In so doing, Ireland will join Australia, Germany, New Zealand and the UK in the ranks of countries that have signed broadly similar qualification recognition agreements with China.
It is not currently known how many Chinese there are living and working in Ireland but the figure is understood to be in the tens of thousands. Puirseil agreed it would be useful to have proper statistics in relation to the number of Chinese working here and said that moves were already under way to put such a mechanism in place.
By Brian Skelly