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Address by Tánaiste, Joan Burton, T.D. at the opening of the IBM Digital Sales Centre

Address by Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton T.D.

At the opening of the IBM Digital Sales Centre

IBM Technology Campus

Friday 12th September 2014

I am delighted to be here today to help IBM officially open its new digital sales centre here in Damastown, which will be the start of an exciting new chapter for the company and its Irish operations.

IBM has a long tradition in Ireland having first established here in 1956. Since then it has made a significant contribution to Ireland’s economy not least in the fact that it is a significant employer with its Irish contingent standing at over 3,500 people across its three centres in Dublin, Cork and Galway. It should also be noted that this workforce is a highly diversified and skilled workforce with some 64% made up of college graduates.

The investments IBM has made in Ireland have allowed it to meet the increasingly diverse needs of its growing number of customers.  IBM’s Irish operations have been very successful for the company, encompassing a variety of activities including its integrated supply chain, a Research and Development Centre and of course the IBM technology Campus.

The landscape in which IBM operates has changed utterly in the 60 years since it came to Ireland.  In recent years the pace of that change has increased exponentially.

IBM has changed and adapted and evolved and is now positioning itself at the very heart of this new key growth area – the ‘delivery of software as a service’ or ‘cloud’ area. This new state-of-the-art digital sales facility is the first of a new kind of sales centre for IBM with a considerable investment behind it.  This investment pays testament to Ireland, and the Government sees it as a vote of confidence by IBM in what Ireland has to offer companies that are expanding in key growth areas.

IBM’s new sales centre will contribute to further innovation and job creation by the company, with 50 new employees expected to be hired for the centre.  These jobs are welcomed and supported by the Government, whose Action Plan for Jobs includes a number of major reforms that have been identified as having potential to have a real and immediate impact on enterprise and jobs. Two of these reforms are to make Ireland the leading country in Europe in Big Data and the most attractive location in the world for ICT Skills availability.

To achieve this the Government is investing heavily in new research facilities in this area, establishing a new industry led Technology Centre, putting in place the skills needed to sustain this new opportunity and establishing a joint industry/Government task force to co-ordinate the delivery of these measures.

In addition, by 2018 Ireland aims to have the highest percentage of computing graduates as a proportion of all tertiary graduates. Through a series of reforms incorporated in the Government’s 2014 ICT Skills Action Plan, we are working towards this through a process of increased programme places, re-skilling and conversion courses and through targeted migration of key skills groups.

One of the key aims of Government is to get people back to work.  Government policies such as the Action Plan for jobs and Pathways to Work are now beginning to bear fruit.  Since the beginning of 2012, employment has increased by over 75,000 and by over 30,000 in the last year.  The current unemployment rate of 11.2% while still too high, does represent a significant decline from its peak rate of over 15.1% in February 2012 and significantly, the long term unemployment rate has fallen to 6.8% from 9.5% at the beginning of 2012.

While these are positive trends more needs to be done and I welcome the role that employers such as IBM are playing in this regard.

I see this first hand. As Minister for Social Protection I have overseen the introduction of JobBridge, JobPlus and the Youth Guarantee all with an aim to get people working and all being delivered in close cooperation with the private sector.   I would like to acknowledge here the key role that IBM has played in ensuring that JobBridge has been the success that it has been.

Employers will also have an opportunity to shape Ireland’s new apprenticeship policy where under a call for proposals to be launched by the soon to be established Apprenticeship Council, employers will be given the chance to identify occupations that are suitable for apprenticeships.  It is intended to expand the types of apprenticeships young people can take up so as to expand their job prospects by making their skills more market relevant.  I would encourage information communication and technology companies to be part of this reshaping of apprenticeships.

We need to have people ready to take up jobs and highly skilled jobs because Ireland continues to attract well-known global ICT companies, with 9 out of the 10 Global ICT Companies based here. Many have followed the trail blazed by IBM, all those years ago.

Ireland is one of the best places in the world to do business. We know that because international surveys consistently place us in the top half dozen locations and, more importantly, because the corporations which have invested in Ireland tell us so.

The primary reason, we believe, for Ireland’s success as a location for Foreign Direct Investment is because for half a century our national development policies have centred on encouraging overseas direct investment by making Ireland as attractive as possible across the range of business needs of those expanding corporations.

The World Economic Forum Competitiveness rankings published earlier this week show that Government policy is working as we have moved three places up the rankings, our best performance since 2009.  Across a range of factors Ireland has achieved some very high scores. But we must never ease up on this drive for competitiveness.

Companies, when making a location decision take into account a multitude of factors at the core of which they are looking for a location with talent and technology backed up by a strong track record and a competitive tax environment. Ireland has proven to be such a location. New and already established multinationals continue to invest and build-out their operations making Ireland the destination of choice for mobile investment projects from the world’s best companies.

Almost 1,000 multinational corporations have chosen Ireland as their strategic European base. Many of these companies have gone on to expand their facilities in Ireland due to the profitability and success of the Irish operation and because of the positive, adaptable attitude of the workforce and the ready availability of highly educated, ambitious managers.

Through the Action Plan for Jobs, the Government will continue to work to ensure that Ireland’s economy is built on enterprise, exports and innovation.  New facilities like the one we are opening here today are proof that we are moving in the right direction.

In conclusion, I want to congratulate IBM on its new facility here in Damastown.  IBM is the longest established multinational in the country and one of our biggest employers.  We are old friends and I am very proud that IBM has chosen Ireland as a location to develop and push the boundaries of technological innovation over the past 60 years.  I am sure that this next chapter in the IBM story, in the opening of its Digital Sales Centre, will redefine how the industry interacts with its clients and partners.

Thank You.