FDI depends on teaching children jobs not invented yet
Digital technology dominates July 4th lunch by American Chamber of Commerce Ireland
Martin Shanahan, chief executive IDA Ireland. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times
The Republic must prepare children for jobs that haven’t been invented yet if it is to win the battle for new foreign direct investment (FDI), a special event to mark US Independence Day has heard.
Irish-American philanthropist Loretta Brennan Glucksman was this year’s recipient of the Kennedy-Lemass Medal. The award was introduced last year to honour US leaders of Irish heritage who have helped to strengthen the Irish-US relationship.
Speaking at the event, chamber president James O’Connor said the Republic’s attractiveness as a location for FDI was reliant on an education system that “continues to produce the best and brightest graduates”.
“Our children need to be ready for jobs that haven’t been invented yet,” he said. “And a key part of that is ensuring that our young people are equipped with the skills that help them participate in a digital world.
“Regardless of the career path they may take, the ability to harness digital technology will help them to do more and achieve more.”
He said the chamber’s vision was made up of an Irish talent pool fit for a data-centric future; a workforce comfortable handling data and complex scenarios; capable of making informed decisions; and able to use enhanced problem-solving skills.
“If we are to win the battle for new FDI we need those digital skills to unleash innovation in a 21st century data-driven economy,” he said. “This is a must regardless of what industry or sector our graduates choose to work in.
“Data in every form - storage, sharing, analysis and management - has continued to increase, helping to transform how we live, work and play and how we connect to the global community.
“This presents a further opportunity for Ireland to strengthen our competitive proposition in this global, connected, interdependent world.”
Mr O’Connor highlighted Britain’s upcoming exit from the European Union, and alluded to US president Donald Trump’s protectionism as causes for concern. “Amidst all this opportunity lie risks,” he said.
“Brexit will bring changing relationships between global trading blocks and the threat of protectionism,” he said. “We are in no doubt this could cause real harm to the extraordinary transformation that has occurred.
“We will make our voice clearly heard on the global stage - in London, Brussels and Washington. We will continue to deliver a message that increasing connectivity, deepening alliances and taking a shared approach to challenges is in all our interests.”
Acting ambassador of the United States to Ireland Reece Smyth, who also addressed the lunch, said the business community, in particular, embodies the “dynamic nature” of the US-Ireland relationship.
“The value of US investment in Ireland is almost $350 billion dollars,” he said. “Ireland’s reputation in boardrooms from Dallas to Denver to Dublin, California is special. In truth, the relationship between our two countries is beyond special. It is truly unique.
“And I think what is most remarkable is that this is not a one-way street. There is a growing pipeline of Irish companies investing and creating jobs in the United States complementing the US companies operating here.”