Tánaiste appoints new future skills supremo

22 Jan 2004

Recruitment industry veteran Anne Heraty has been appointed by the Tánaiste Mary Harney TD as new chairperson of the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs.

Heraty, who succeeds Dr Danny O’Hare as head of the skills think-tank, is chief executive of leading recruitment firm Computer Placement (CPL) Resources plc. He has also been chairperson of the National Training Advisory Committee (NTAC) since its formation in 2001.

The Tánaiste also announced that NTAC was to be merged with the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN). “There are significant synergies between the work of the National Training Advisory Committee and the EGFSN,” commented Harney. “It has been forecast that approximately 80pc of people who will make up the workforce of the knowledge economy in Ireland in 2015 are already at work. In this light, training and education of those already in employment will become increasingly important in terms of Ireland’s ability to provide industry with the right number of people with the right mix of skills.”

The newly expanded EGFSN is expected to focus on a number of key issues including: implementation of recommendations proposed in previous EGFSN reports; research on skills and competencies being acquired by graduates participating in particular courses of education; input into skills-based immigration policy; and review of existing sectoral skills needs projections.

The announcements come on the same day that the Tánaiste told the European Parliament that the capacity of the European Union to retain its science and technology graduates and attract non-EU scientists and researchers to work in Europe was a key issue for the future growth and competitiveness of EU industry.

Some 400,000 EU science graduates are currently working in the US, representing about 40pc of the entire US science and research community, and for every three science and technology graduates from the Far East who move to the US to work, only one moves to Europe, Harney told the parliament’s Committee on Industry, External Trade and Research.

“Innovation drives economic activity, growth and enterprise which is why the research agenda is so critically important for the EU. We produce more scientists and researchers than the US but too many of them move to the US to work. We must provide more incentives to keep these graduates in Europe and to attract others to work here,” she said. The Irish Presidency would prioritise the on-going negotiations designed to facilitate the free movement of scientists and researchers, and their families, within the EU and into the EU from third countries, she said.

Ms Harney said a larger proportion of the EU budget should be devoted to research to kick-start investment and activity in the private sector, and the rules and regulations dealing with access to research funds needed to be greatly simplified. She added that the Irish Presidency would seek to bring some new thinking to bear on this issue over the coming months. There was also a need for closer linkages between industry and the higher education system, similar to linkages that had been developed in the US, she said.

The broad issue of intellectual property rights and the lengthy and continuing negotiations on the Community Patent were key components of the legal infrastructure which needed to be put in place to support a renewed emphasis on research and innovation, the Tánaiste said. It was the firm intention of the Irish Presidency to try and reach agreement on the few outstanding issues holding up final agreement on the Patent. “It is vitally important that we reach a political agreement on this issue which has been on the agenda now for 14 years.”

The Tánaiste added that innovation would be the theme for a meeting of EU Ministers scheduled to take place in Shannon in April. She said the Irish Presidency had lined up some “leading lights” from the global IT industry to speak at the Shannon meeting with the objective of stimulating dialogue between business leaders on the one hand and European competitiveness ministers and the European Commission on the other. “This form of dialogue is new and has the capacity to stimulate original thinking about how Europe is to encourage growth and a knowledge-based economy.”

Decisions by multinational companies to relocate parts of their business including R&D activities in developing countries, notably India and in the Far East, was an increasingly common trend and one of great concern for the EU, she said. The EU response must be to concentrate on innovation and the higher value added sector of the manufacturing process.

By Brian Skelly