I was pleased to attend the launch today of the Action Plan for Jobs 2016, the fifth in the annual series of jobs plans, led by Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton, aimed at building a new, sustainable economy based on enterprise, exports and innovation.

This plan is the first in a new phase of the Action Plan for Jobs process, after the original target of 100,000 extra jobs by 2016 was hit last year, 21 months ahead of schedule. According to the independent Central Statistics Office, more than 135,000 additional people are at work today compared to when the first Action Plan for Jobs was launched.

As part of this new phase of the Action Plan for Jobs process, 200,000 net additional jobs are targeted by 2020, which would bring the total numbers of people at work to 2.18million

The 2016 plan outlines 304 actions which will be implemented this year by 16 Departments and over 60 Agencies, continuing the genuinely cross-Government approach to the top priority area of job-creation.

Today’s launch took place at the Kerry Group Global Technology and Innovation Centre in Naas, Co. Kildare. The project to build this major regional jobs project received Government support in 2012, shortly after the launch of the first Action Plan for Jobs, when unemployment was over 15%. Today, over 800 mainly young people are employed in high-end jobs by this Irish multinational in this regional location.

As in previous years the plan contains 5 Disruptive Reforms – ambitious cross-Government initiatives that will have a significant measurable impact on job-creation.

Among the headline actions included in this year’s plan are:

All Government transactions with business will be available online by 2017, a move  which will affect 370 Government transactions with 185,000 businesses across the country
We will double the intellectual property outputs from business
Following the successful rollout of the Regional Jobs plans, further actions to support regional jobs growth supported by €530million in funding
A step-up in skills supply, including a single Government web portal to highlight job opportunities to returning emigrants and a new National Skills Strategy
13,000 new jobs in Enterprise Ireland companies and 16,000 new jobs in IDA companies in 2016
A series of measures to double the jobs impact from start-ups, including support for 185 high-potential and early-stage start-ups and 4000 jobs from the Local Enterprise Offices in 2016
Mentoring and management development programmes for 1300 Irish companies in 2016
€150million in new funding for R&D from Horizon 2020, and €600million in R&D investment annually from multinational companies
A National Clustering Initiative – while clustering is an important strength of the Irish economy, particularly at regional level, research suggests that this can be significantly strengthened with specific initiatives
Agri-food – establish a Centre for Consumer Insights and a Meat Technology Centre to support food innovation
Financial services – IDA will develop proposals to win more “front office” financial services activities
Measures to target jobs from new sectors including the bio-economy and the audio-visual sector
The Taoiseach said, “Jobs have been and will remain the top priority of this Government.  Getting a job and earning an income is the best manifestation of our recovery.  Our aim of creating a supporting environment for job creation through the tireless work of the Action Plan for Jobs has resulted in 135,000 new jobs added to the economy since the low point in 2012.  As Taoiseach, my goal is to continue with the Action Plan for Jobs in the next Government to help create another 200,000 jobs that will see Ireland return to full employment by 2020.  The 2016 Action Plan is another important stepping stone that sets out new actions to help businesses grow and create 50,000 new jobs right across the country next year.”

The Tánaiste said: “Since the first Action Plan for Jobs was launched in 2012, we’ve transformed our economy from one in crisis to one that’s now in recovery. Over 1,000 jobs are being created each week, and unemployment is at the lowest it’s been in seven years. We want to keep up this momentum and get more people into secure and well-paid jobs. The Government will continue to stand up for more jobs and opportunities for our people, through the Action Plan for Jobs 2016 and the Pathways to Work strategy in my Department. By continuing to provide stable, balanced government we can maintain the progress and meet the targets laid out in this plan.”

The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD said: “Our plan is working. Since the first Action Plan was launched more than 135,000 extra people are at work, hitting our target 21 months ahead of schedule. Now it is time to move on to the next phase, to lift our ambitions and to use this structure to deliver on higher targets.

“With the right actions from Government we believe that we can create 200,000 extra jobs by 2020. This will not happen automatically, and there are many factors which could see us returning to the errors of the mid-2000s which precipitated the crash. However with strong implementation of our solid plan, we can see a continuation of the progress we have seen and keep the recovery going. If we do that – and only if we do that – we can create the resources we need to invest in services and improve living standards for families around the country”.

The Minister of State for Business and Employment Ged Nash TD said: “We are at a crucial turning point for our economy – cementing the hard won recovery and looking forward with much more confidence to sustainable growth which will deliver full employment and better living standards for our people.  This Action Plan for Jobs will help Government to ensure that the benefits of our growth, built on the hard work of people, is shared by everyone.  I am particularly focused on ensuring that work always pays but particularly for those on low and middle incomes.  I believe we have a real opportunity now to ensure that Ireland is not only a great place to start or own a business, but it is also a great place to work, live and raise a family.”

The Minister of State for Research, Innovation and Skills Damien English TD said: It is particularly appropriate that we are launching the 2016 action plan at the Kerry Group’s Global Technology and Innovation Centre which marks the start of the implementation of Innovation 2020 – this Government’s ambitious strategy for Ireland to become a Global Innovation Leader. Innovation is critical to the success of Irish firms in overseas markets. In 2016 there will also be a step-up in enterprise skills supply with funding for 25 new apprenticeship programmes and a €1.5 million investment in a First-Stop-Shop portal for those overseas looking to find technology jobs in Ireland. The Regional Skills Fora will also provide employers with the opportunity at the local level to directly feed into the education system their skills and training needs”.