Welcome back: small firms are keen to hire returning emigrants

Welcome back: small firms are keen to hire returning emigrants Irish companies use various methods to let people abroad know about jobs


Charlie Taylor

SFA director Patricia Callan: “There is certainly a ‘war for talent’ in trying to attract and retain the best people”

SFA director Patricia Callan: “There is certainly a ‘war for talent’ in trying to attract and retain the best people”


Big multinationals are not the only ones looking to take on more employees in the coming year. Start-ups and small and medium-sized Irish companies are also intent on adding staff as business grows.

However, as few of them have the time or budget to reach out to Irish people living overseas, what are they doing to recruit candidates?

Government agencies such as Enterprise Ireland and lobby groups such as the Small Firms Association (SFA) and the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (Isme) are all actively supporting the #hometoworkcampaign, but they are also taking other steps to encourage workers back to Ireland.

“The labour market is tightening across the board with unemployment at 8.9 per cent nationally and 8 per cent in Dublin, so there is certainly a ‘war for talent’ in trying to attract and retain the best people,” says SFA directo Patricia Callan.

“But companies can still generally fill roles fairly quickly. The difficulty for small firms is they don’t have professional in-house HR people and find recruitment agencies very expensive, so it’s a time-consuming effort for them to recruit. There are specific skills shortages in Stem-related professions, such as IT and the sciences, and in healthcare professions such as nursing. Good salespeople are also in demand.”

Free of charge Callan says that because SFA members generally do not have the resources to run recruitment campaigns internationally, many use the Department of Social Protection’s Intreo Service and the Eures (European Employment Services) Network, both of which they can access free of charge.

“Where there are dramatic skill shortages, such as in nursing homes, members run specific campaigns through agencies internationally to attract foreign workers, rather than returning Irish per se,” she says.


nterprise Ireland (EI) says it is supporting recruitment campaigns in multiple ways.

“Attracting skilled talent to Ireland is a key focus of EI and client companies, particularly in the technology space. There are lots of opportunities in Ireland for skilled workers, and Enterprise Ireland is supporting its clients in attracting talent via a number of initiatives,” says Leo McAdams, divisional manager ICT & international services, Enterprise Ireland

“These include our Itshappeninghere.ie website portal, which lists the indigenous EI client technology companies that are hiring, the positions they have available and key facts about Ireland; the website is also promoted internationally.”

Isme chief executive Mark Fielding says many of its members are putting out feelers locally to ensure that Irish people who are back for Christmas know that jobs are available close to home.

“Because the internet and frequent flights have reduced the world’s distances, many job ads are now being answered from abroad by emigrants wishing to return, so the mammy network is not as used as in years gone by,” he says.

“However, Irish mammies and daddies do monitor the jobs situation in the area and continue to ask SME owners about opportunities for their emigrant children, should they return home. Given this, Christmas visits are a good time for emigrants to do some local networking and assess the merits of returning home.”

Fielding says the media perception of Ireland at present is positive and all about growth.

“People who have made the difficult decision to leave Ireland and build a life elsewhere need to have the merits of their home soil resold to them. This is hopefully happening through international coverage,” he says.

Top priority However, Fielding says that while there are moves to encourage members of the diaspora home, it is important to remember that there is still a large cohort of unemployed people locally and that getting them back into the workforce should be the top priority.

“The drive to bring emigrants home to fill skill shortages is a positive move, but we cannot forget that many people who never left are still struggling to find work and every effort must be made to upskill them and make them work-ready,” he says.

“Furthermore, the increasing cost of labour and uncertainty over potential future minimum wage increases and the consequent affordability of staff are huge issues here. There is little point in encouraging people to come home if employers can’t afford to expand their workforces.

“The Government must put more effort into reducing the tax wedge on labour, rather than putting the onus on employers to increase wages. Maintaining competitiveness must be moved to the forefront of the Government agenda if we are to create an environment in which SMEs can create jobs.”


Previously published in The Irish Times.


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