The Government has published its plans for 20,000 additional jobs in the manufacturing sector by 2016. The strategy, Making it in Ireland – Manufacturing 2020, highlights the changing nature of manufacturing globally and the opportunities that this creates for Ireland. Last year, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton tasked a group led by industry experts with coming up with a plan to deliver on the Government’s target of 20,000 additional jobs in manufacturing. The strategies launched this month as part of the Action Plan for Jobs, prepared by Forfás and the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs, are aimed at delivering on that ambition. Forfás states that if Ireland is to achieve the potential that manufacturing offers for job creation, barriers to growth must be addressed – specifically, relative cost competitiveness and access to finance. MANUFACTURING POTENTIAL The manufacturing sector in Ireland employs 205,700 people directly, and as many people again indirectly. Making it in Ireland – Manufacturing 2020 sets out a range of actions by Government and its agencies to realise the potential for manufacturing to 2020. The following areas of opportunities are identified in the report: •    Maintaining what we have and building on strengths in pharma/biopharma, medical technologies, food, ICT, engineering and off-site manufacturing (construction) •    Adapting and responding to globalisation and focusing on activities such as global supply chain networks, contract manufacturing, new product introduction and manu-services •    Developing and adopting new technologies and materials, including ICTs and lean principles to enhance sustainability, productivity and competitiveness Key actions are proposed across a range of areas, including access to new funding, management training and support, costs reduction and technology adoption Among the specific measures proposed are: •        Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland to target additional financial supports for R&D investment – specifically targeted at engineering firms •        A new start-up fund run by Enterprise Ireland, targeting supports for new manufacturing start-ups •        Enterprise Ireland to introduce a new capability fund to support capital investment by manufacturing companies •        Proposals to maintain or reduce costs to manufacturing companies across areas like energy, waste, regulation and tax •        Better targeting of training at skills shortages in the manufacturing sector through the implementation of the Future Skills Needs of the Manufacturing Sector study (also launched this month). A new National Step Change Initiative will be available to all Enterprise Ireland and IDA client companies, which will systematically support manufacturing companies to expand their client base through staff training and peer learning. It aims to improve their adoption of new technologies and accelerate collaboration between companies in similar sectors to generate greater efficiencies in areas like global sourcing. The Step Change Initiative also aims to increase engagement in R&D, including those firms less active to date (such as foreign-owned engineering firms), and determine industry research needs – with particular reference to engineering, which the report says has been “relatively underrepresented to date”. FUTURE SKILLS NEEDS A complementary study from Forfás and the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs on skills needs in manufacturing has also been launched. Future Skills Needs of the Manufacturing Sector to 2020 addresses the skills requirements of the sector in Ireland to 2020 and makes recommendations to ensure these are met. It notes that there are skills shortages currently, though not of significant scale. Nonetheless, many of these shortages are critical at an operational level to manufacturing firms due to the technical expertise they provide. The report highlights current and future shortages across a number of engineering disciplines and in areas such as tool making, machinists, supervisors and polymer technicians. It also highlights the importance of continuous upskilling requirements across all occupations. “The manufacturing sector needs to do more to promote and boost the attractiveness of manufacturing as a career choice,” according to the report. “There are highly varied and rewarding career paths within the sector, with good potential for mobility. However, these are often not apparent to students or those working outside of the sector.” Minister Bruton, along with Minister for Education and Skills Ruairi Quinn, launched both reports at Prodieco, an Irish precision engineering manufacturing company established in 1962 which in recent years has adapted to changing trends and now exclusively supplies packaging to the pharmaceutical industry, employing 130 people. CRUCIAL SECTOR “Despite a substantial decline over the past decade, manufacturing is a crucial sector employing over 200,000 people directly and a similar number indirectly,” said Minister Bruton. “The sector has substantial capacity for jobs growth, and that’s why we decided two years ago to examine new ways of targeting support at manufacturing. The target of 20,000 additional jobs in the sector by 2016 is achievable with the right supports from Government.” Minister Quinn said the needs of the manufacturing sector, like a lot of other sectors, were evolving rapidly. “In order to maximise opportunities for growth and attract investment, we need to ensure our people are offered opportunities to upskill and reskill in order to have the relevant, quality skills needed to avail of current and future job opportunities in this sector,” he said. “I’m confident we can do this: Irish people are problem solvers, we’re innovative, flexible and adaptable to change – combined with our technical expertise, we can work in multi-disciplinary teams and with different cultures. “The Forfás strategy and complementary report from the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs set out clearly what we need to do in order to address the future skills challenges and the existing small, but important, number of skills gaps in the new era for manufacturing. But, as the report identifies, we also need to show jobseekers, school-leavers and their parents clearly the job opportunities and career paths that still exist in manufacturing.” Martin D. Shanahan, CCEO of Forfás, said the employment outlook for the sector depended on addressing domestic competitiveness factors and a favourable international trading environment. “Companies are operating in an intensely competitive global arena and although Ireland’s cost competitiveness has improved over recent years, it’s imperative that we continue to drive structural change and sustained improvements in our competitiveness,” he said.  “A further improvement in our cost competitiveness is required to assist the manufacturing sector to grow. Access to finance for Irish firms is continuously highlighted to us by companies as the number one issue.” The full report, Future Skills Requirements of the Manufacturing Sector to 2020, with a detailed breakdown of recommendations and next steps for addressing skills requirements of the manufacturing sector, is available on and on