Rise in Irish companies hiring foreign workers to meet skills shortages

Some 130 Brazilian engineers to gather in Dublin for Engineers Week networking event

In 2019, more than 40 per cent of Engineers Ireland’s new members came from abroad, with most coming from Brazil, Portugal, Poland, India and South Africa.  Photograph: iStock

In 2019, more than 40 per cent of Engineers Ireland’s new members came from abroad, with most coming from Brazil, Portugal, Poland, India and South Africa. Photograph: iStock

 

Engineering companies are increasingly hiring international workers as skills shortages in the Irish sector continue to rise.

Research by Engineers Ireland has found almost half of engineer organisations in Ireland are now targeting overseas talent, while nine out of ten leading engineer groups reported skills shortages as a barrier to growing their workforce.

In 2019, more than 40 per cent of Engineers Ireland’s new members came from abroad, with most coming from Brazil, Portugal, Poland, India and South Africa.

Overseas workers with engineering expertise became eligible for Irish employment permits in April 2019 when the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation expanded its critical skills list for non-EEA (European Economic Area) workers to include civil, mechanical and electrical engineers with building information modelling expertise.

A total of 16,838 critical skills working visas were issued to people from outside the EU to work in Ireland last year. More than 40 per cent of these visas went to Indian professionals, while 13 per cent went to people from Brazil, eight per cent for Pakistan, eight per cent for the United States and six per cent for South Africa.

This work permit list was updated in January 2020 to include mechanical and electrical engineers “without specialist skills”.

‘Major concern’

Some 130 Brazilian engineers will gather at the Engineers Ireland headquarters in Dublin on Monday evening for an event targeted at attracting international engineers to work in the State as part of Engineers Week 2020. Further events targeting Indian and South African engineers are scheduled for late March and April.

While Engineers Ireland welcomes the strong supply of international engineers contributing their expertise to Irish projects, the skill shortage among domestic engineers is “a major concern”, said Caroline Spillane, director general of Engineers Ireland.

Relying on overseas talent to drive key infrastructural projects is “not a sustainable framework going forward”, she added. “The supply of third level engineers graduates needs to ramp up to address the skills shortage that the sector still faces.”