The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation has launched a skills report from Forfás and the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN) that highlights a critical need to improve sales skills and foreign languages to meet employers’ needs in exporting companies.
In preparing the report, Forfás consulted with more than 60 companies, both foreign affiliates and indigenous. These companies anticipated a 15–20pc increase in employment over the next three years, however, recruitment difficulties are expected when it comes to finding international sales staff who are proficient in another language, as well as software engineers.
This study estimates that 2,200 job opportunities will arise within exporting companies, but these will only be filled if tailored skills conversion courses in ICT computing, customer sales and service support with foreign languages, design engineering, international sales with foreign languages and project management are developed in partnership with industry bodies.
More foreign language education required at third level
The report recommends boosting foreign language courses at third level, specifically German, French, Spanish, Italian, Mandarin Chinese, Russian and Arabic. It also highlights the need to increase formal international sales training at third level, recommending compulsory modules on international sales for business courses and the introduction of a degree and post-graduate diploma in international sales with foreign languages.
“We need to align our education, training and continuing professional development to the international trade skills requirements of our enterprises,” said Una Halligan, chairperson of the EGFSN. “At third level, findings are that there is a relative lack of Irish graduates with foreign-language proficiency and international market experience. Employers value such a period abroad, which increases the students’ employability and job prospects.”
Upskilling of the Irish workforce
“Ensuring we have the skills required for current and future business is a key part of the Action Plan for Jobs, and today’s finding that over 2,000 opportunities will come on stream in companies which could be filled through conversion courses is stark,” said Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton, TD. “I am determined to continue working with cabinet colleagues to ensure that not only do we create more jobs, but also that we have the skilled workers to fill more of them from within our workforce.”
“Expanding into new markets requires a ramping up of skills and experience levels,” said Halligan. “Absolutely key in this regard are our abilities to sell effectively and for staff right across functional areas of companies to be able to communicate and understand those markets. Foreign language capability and cultural awareness are essential.”
Foreign languages image via Shutterstock