What does the Government’s latest Action Plan for Jobs promise to your business?
In this day and age, it’s easy to be cynical about much trumpeted Government initiatives, especially ones promising increased employment. But as JobBridge showed, for better or worse, these top-down programmes have the potential to change the market dramatically. So parsing the Government’s latest action plan for jobs in search of reforms that will affect your business is a pretty worthwhile exercise.
The third instalment in the Government plan contains 385 actions to be spread across all 16 Government Departments and 46 Agencies. Not all of these are directly relevant to domestic businesspeople, of course, as a good chunk of Government effort is still focused on attracting and retaining Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).
Fortunately, however, the Government has realised that two thirds of all new jobs in recent years have been created by start-up businesses. Some of these might seem superficial – a county based public competition to find the best entrepreneur in Ireland – but a budget of €2m in funding for awards is nothing to be sniffed at.
31 new Local Enterprise Offices are also promised to drive start-ups across the country, along with the introduction of an Entrepreneurial PhD programme to train Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) scientists to launch their own businesses. Looking to the longer term, the Government has also pledged a review of tax supports for entrepreneurs to see if they can be improved or simplified
Competitiveness and Manufacturing
Companies facing a squeeze from labour and other costs can also take some heart from the plan, as improved competitiveness has also been targeted. Aside from a new system of reporting to Cabinet on competitiveness issues, the Government has promised concrete action on manpower issues. This includes the provision of 6,000 Momentum placements to enhance skills – if you’re an education or training provider, the scheme is something you can check out here. For employers in the service sector or other lower-wage industries, the rollout of new reformed Workplace relations structures should also be a major boost. Meanwhile, a set of new measures have been rolled out to support productivity improvements and higher levels of R&D in manufacturing businesses.
As any businessperson will tell you, the finance to reach sustainable profitability is one of the most important ingredients for success, but many find it extremely difficult to obtain from banks. If you’re likely to be looking for finance in the next year or two, though, the latest action plan offers some hope. The Government has promised more new non-bank sources of lending to SMEs, adding to €2bn already available, including new working capital products for exporters and a retail mini bonds market via the Irish Stock Exchange. Meanwhile, the Department of Finance has pledged to monitor new bank lending to SMEs on a monthly basis to bring added scrutiny.
There are a smattering of other measures – Regional Enterprise Strategies, proposals for a successor to the National Spatial Strategy, new supports in sectors such as Agriculture/Food, ICT and Tourism – that won’t apply to everyone, and a few that are vague. It remains to be seen, for example, whether the Year of Irish Design 2015 brings any momentum to the design and crafts sector in the medium term. But some items in the Action Plan for Jobs 2014 are genuinely exciting and worth checking out. If you would like an initial no-obligation meeting to discuss opportunities that the plan may present, or your own unique business needs, simply contact us.