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“Digital and energy jobs at forefront of economic recovery” - Minister White

Dublin, 28 January 2015

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Alex White, T.D. today welcomed the publication of the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs (APJ) 2015 and said the APJ process has made a substantial contribution to economic recovery and jobs growth, including in the energy and communications sectors.

Europe’s Energy Innovation Hub
Minister White welcomed actions to help Ireland become Europe’s Energy Innovation Hub by 2020. As the APJ recognises, innovation in the energy sector has the potential to create substantial economic and job creation growth in Ireland.

Minister White said, “The energy sector is contributing enormously to our economic recovery. It is directly maintaining and creating jobs, and it provides the reliable and safe supply of electricity, gas and oil that’s critical to our ability to attract foreign and domestic investment.

“A report released this week by the Electricity Association of Ireland outlines how energy firms directly employed over 15,500 people in 2013, and supported 32,000 more jobs indirectly. That’s 47,600 jobs, or one in every 55 jobs on this island. Most of these jobs are regionally based, making the sector a huge contributor to rural economies.

“This is a skillset that we can sell to the rest of the world, and I believe that we can become Europe’s Energy Innovation Hub. Ireland has enormous potential to develop a leading global position in the development of new energy services, and our focus must now turn to identifying and nurturing opportunities for businesses and researchers in Ireland. The completion of the Energy policy review and the publication of a new Energy policy later this year will provide an important context and facilitate the development of Ireland as Europe’s Energy Innovation Hub.”

Intensive and coordinated efforts by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, and IDA Ireland make Ireland a natural home for the kinds of research, innovation and demonstration activities that the evolving world of energy technology demands.

Trading Online Vouchers
Government is taking action to significantly increase the number of companies trading online, and to increase the share of online retail spend that goes to Irish businesses.

Minister White said “In the area of digital technologies our success has been remarkable. We have attracted and kept some of the largest and most successful internet service companies in the world such as Google, Facebook, Linkedin and many more. However, despite our growing digital ecosystem, it has been a challenge to convert that into real sales for real Irish businesses.”

Irish consumers are now spending more than six billion euro online every year. This figure is growing, and it’s growing fast. Yet, less than a third of this spend goes to Irish retailers, and only 23% of small Irish companies have engaged in online sales. “In July 2014, my Department launched a national Trading Online Voucher Scheme, following a successful pilot in the Dublin area. Working in partnership with Enterprise Ireland and the Local Enterprise Office network, the Scheme aims to get 2,000 small businesses trading online by the end of this year. Encouragingly,

· 60% of those involved in the pilot said they would need to recruit more staff within 12 months of engaging with the scheme.

· 70% of companies see more customer inquiries, 55% have had more sales.

· Most companies are primarily trading domestically, but businesses expect to get 30% of sales from export markets within 6 months.

Through their local enterprise office, small businesses can apply for financial assistance of up to €2,500 to develop their online trading capability. The scheme gives priority to businesses who aim to extend their customer base, start exporting, and create jobs. More information can be found at http://www.localenterprise.ie/

National Broadband Plan
2015 will be a milestone year in the delivery of the Government’s National Broadband Plan. Over 1m homes and businesses in Ireland already have access to high speed broadband in Ireland, thanks to significant investment by the commercial sector. By the end of 2016 that figure will rise to 1.6m - 70% of all premises in Ireland. In 2014, the Department published a Map which shows the extent of commercial investment on a house-by-house basis. The Map also shows exactly what areas the Government’s intervention will target. Public consultation is ongoing and the Minister will bring proposals for a detailed intervention strategy to Government in mid-2015. Minister White said “This is a complex and far-reaching programme that aims to conclusively deal with Ireland’s connectivity challenge. We recognise that quality broadband is a critical service, for everyone, regardless of where they live or work, and we intend to deliver a world-class service to citizens”. The Department aims to issue a tender to build a high speed broadband network towards the end of 2015.

National Energy Services Framework
The National Energy Services Framework (NESF) supports the rollout of energy performance contracting (EPC) to public and commercial facilities across the country, aimed at developing robust projects that are investment-ready, stimulating the development of a market for Energy Services Companies (ESCOs) and supporting sustainable employment in construction and professional services.

Minister White said, “Already, there are 20 organisations (private and public) managing 23 active exemplar projects. By using less energy, most of which comes from imported fossil fuels, we’re not just saving money we’re putting people back to work. The companies performing works under this programme employ people to carry out these energy efficiency upgrades and this in turn means that more of what we spend goes back into our community.”

The Framework provides guidance on routes to project development, together with sources of finance and the support available from SEAI to help develop projects in the public and commercial sector. The key aim of the Framework is to encourage the development of robust projects which are investment-ready for financing entities (such as the National Energy Efficiency Fund).

The Minister will also progress the other actions identified in the 2015 APJ relevant to his Department in areas such as energy efficiency, the National Broadband Plan, and the implementation of the National Postcodes System.
ENDS


NOTES FOR EDITORS

About Action Plan for Jobs

The Action Plan for Jobs is the Government’s plan to improve the conditions for creating new jobs. It is a whole-of-Government initiative under which all 16 Government Departments and 46 Agencies work together to support job creation and protection, and is a sister document to Pathways to Work.

The main strategic ambitions of the Action Plan for Jobs are:

· to support 100,000 additional jobs by 2016

· to achieve a top 5 competitiveness ranking

· to build world class clusters in key sectors of opportunity

· to build an indigenous engine of growth

· to develop Ireland as the best small country in which to do business

Since the launch of the Action Plan for Jobs process in 2012, almost one thousand actions have been delivered. To find out more about Action Plan for Jobs and each year’s plan, see: http://www.merrionstreet.ie/en/allaboutjobs/Government-Programmes/Action_Plan_for_Jobs/

Action Plan for Jobs 2015
Action Plan for Jobs 2015 is the next step in the multi-annual process aimed at delivering full employment by 2018.

The Plan is the fourth annual plan in a multi-year process which started in early 2012, and sets out in detail the more than 300 actions to be taken by 16 Government Departments and dozens of State Agencies during 2015 to support job-creation, with deadlines and lead responsibility assigned. Building on the success of previous plans, the 2015 plan includes new Disruptive Reforms.

Action Plan for Jobs 2015 is available to download here: http://www.djei.ie/enterprise/apj.htm


OECD review of Action Plan for Jobs process
Among the conclusions of the OECD review of the APJ in May 2015 were:

“…Ireland’s Action Plan for Jobs (APJ) marks an important innovation in Irish governance…”

“Ireland is well on track to achieve the interim APJ target of 100,000 new jobs by 2016, while the longer-term aim of having 2.1 million employed people by 2020 also looks firmly within grasp.”

“The APJ’s most striking innovation in the Irish public policy context is a coordination mechanism that ensures high-level political buy-in and oversight, whole-of-government engagement and the establishment of quarterly targets underpinned by a robust monitoring system. These are important steps towards addressing long-standing gaps that undermine successful policy implementation.”

“The APJ’s focus on private sector-led, export-oriented job creation by getting framework conditions right and continually upgrading the business environment is a sound approach…”

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