An article in the news today suggests that 2016 is going to be a record year for the issue of work visas in Ireland. While this is an indicator of a growing economy it does expose the size of the skill shortage in Ireland for particular skillsets.

The Shortage of Talent in Manufacturing

So industries are growing, employment figures are on the rise and in general the Irish employment market looks like it’s back on its feet. However, we are now seeing a new challenge in the Irish job market and that is the supply of talent to our growing industries. Not just talent but specialised talent.

With the onset of increased employment and the steadying of industry, the numbers of available specialised talent has become a problem for both recruiters and companies nationwide and if I’m being honest I have not seen the pool of quality talent in relation to the number of jobs on the market being as low as it currently is in a long number of years. Another additional challenge for recruiters and employers is that candidates are showing tremendous loyalty to the company that they got through the recession with and we are finding that once pay increments are fair candidates will continue to show loyalty to their existing employers. It is also worth mentioning that in pre-recession years the more senior roles that required a level of experience were being filled by a flow of candidates that were moving from graduate and junior roles into intermediate level roles. However, a significant proportion of these candidates have now emigrated to Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the US during our recession years, and this is where the gap in the market has come.

Skills shortage in technical areas

As a recruiter specialising in technical and engineering roles, the skillsets that we currently find are in short supply are generally around the technical areas of manufacturing and production. These experienced skillsets in Polymer Processing and Polymer Science, Automation and Controls are now highly prized. As well as experience working with polymers, employers are also seeking candidates with both undergraduate and masters’ degrees in Polymer Processing, Polymer Engineering, Mechanical and Polymer Engineering and Materials Science. Likewise, for roles relating to Polymer Science, Automation and Controls employers are looking for those with electrical engineering degrees as well as specialist diplomas in Automation and Control.

Looking abroad

But with a current shortage of supply in Ireland, what are companies and recruiters doing to satisfy their demand for talent? There are roles that need to be filled but there is no time to train someone up, which could take years to complete. As a result recruiters and employers have had to broaden the search and look at candidates who might have emigrated out of Ireland in recessionary times as well as in the UK, Europe and beyond. We are finding a lot of success in finding suitable candidates based in Eastern Europe and a move to Ireland for a well-paid role and a better way of life is an attractive package for these candidates. Top recruiters all have honed skills in online recruitment and are very comfortable and proficient at sourcing these candidates and this is a growing trend. Another source is the Irish abroad, who left during the recession to progress their career and now that Ireland is back on its feet the candidates will now consider a move home.

But whether its finding highly skilled foreign nationals or the Diaspora, the lack of specific engineering skills is forcing companies to look outside the country to fill vital roles in manufacturing & production environments.

What can we do to narrow this shortfall?

The question we as a nation need to ask is what can industry and our government do to try to narrow this shortfall in the future? Are the major employers playing a big enough role in the development of courses and curriculum in universities and colleges in Ireland? Are we looking far enough down the line and predicting where our industries are going and what the skills will we be looking for 3, 5 and 10 years’ time?  In answering these questions we should be able to put a process in place where academia and industry are working hand in hand to turn out highly trained candidates with relevant and cutting edge skills to ensure that Ireland’s labour force maintains its competitive people edge over other countries. As well as our much discussed favourable corporate tax rate, multinationals have located in Ireland because of our highly skilled workforce but there is a danger that many companies may look elsewhere if the gap between labour supply and demand continues.

In my opinion, industry leaders could be working with education professionals at second level and promoting careers in certain skillsets that are either currently in short supply or are predicted to be in short supply in the future. Is there enough being done in career guidance to promote the areas where we are having a shortage? Are the big industry players going into second level schools and using open days as a tool to show off what roles they can offer to people?

There is no doubt that exposing the next generation’s minds to certain types of skills that can lead into interesting and progressive careers will also work towards narrowing the candidate shortfall in the future.

Johnathan Conroy


Jonathan Conroy specialises in the recruitment of permanent, temporary and contract roles in the Engineering sector for the Midlands and West of Ireland. If you are interested in a career in Engineering or need assistance with the recruitment of an Engineering job why not connect with him on LinkedIn or give him a call on 09064 90485.