Over the last ten years, Ireland has become an attractive base for EMEA service centres. EMEA stands for Europe, Middle East and Africa. Multinational companies with customer service or technical support dimension to their business need EMEA operations in strategic locations to service these markets effectively. Since 2012 especially, there has been a marked increase in the number of multinational companies, across a variety of industries, locating their EMEA or international operations in Ireland. The largest proportion of these centres is unsurprisingly for the ICT sector – companies such as 10gen, Squarespace, ACI, Marin Software, and Yahoo have all announced new or expanded international/EMEA operations here. The growth in EMEA services in Ireland has seen a corresponding increase in demand for graduates and workers with language skills, or fluency in two or more languages.

The most high profile of all of the EMEA announcements in Ireland occurred in February 2013 with the much-welcomed news that 450 highly-skilled jobs would be created at eBay’s Dundalk facility. This was in addition to the 1000 jobs announced by PayPal in Dundalk in 2012. The scale of the eBay expansion garnered a large amount of media attention, with some discussions focusing on where eBay would acquire the talent to fill their language positions. There were initial concerns that many of these positions would have to be filled with personnel from outside of Ireland. However, the issue of importing skills needs to be considered in context for a number of reasons.

Firstly, considering the large number of other highly skilled positions that will be filled by Irish professionals, it would be short-sighted to restrict the hiring of multilingual staff from overseas so that non-native speakers from Ireland could fill the roles. Multinational companies would find such a rigid attitude discouraging when considering future investment in the country. Secondly, employing native speakers to provide customer support can deliver a better service for international customers, as they will typically have a superior level of local knowledge and cultural awareness, as well as being better able to understand local accents and idioms. Thirdly, the type of work an EMEA service centre does means that no matter what part of the world a company bases its operations in, it will need to import language skills.

The aim of further establishing Ireland’s reputation as an EMEA hub can only be achieved through the employment of a number of international workers with these language skills. This is a necessary and unavoidable part of Ireland’s development as a regional services hub. As a percentage of the overall employment created in these sectors, the number of those brought in from outside Ireland is relatively small. It would also prove extremely difficult to source individuals domestically that speak certain Eastern European languages, or who speak Arabic and are able to understand its various dialects.

It is normal for global companies, who are generating the bulk of these positions in EMEA services, to staff their offices with an international workforce. There are additional benefits to having a mix of domestic and international employees in a company. All employees learn from the variety of perspectives that surround them, enabling the development of a more dynamic and creative workforce. This can greatly benefit the Irish labour force more broadly as they learn new ideas and approaches from their international counterparts. This welcomed diversity in the workforce will foster more creativity and innovation.

Ireland has done an excellent job of attracting foreign direct investment. The need to create jobs and reduce the numbers on the live register is a pressing concern. Attracting FDI has proven to be successful at generating employment during our economic recovery. The ability to attract the best international talent to Ireland is seen as an asset when enticing multinational companies to locate part of their business here. The jobs that are created indirectly, as a result of the income foreign workers spend in the country, is an additional economic benefit that should also be taken into consideration.  At the time of the PayPal announcement in Dundalk, the DKIT president was quoted in local press stating that there could be as many as 3,500 spin-off jobs in the North East region from the PayPal announcement.

Irish employees that speak a foreign language remain much sought after and there is definitely a role for Irish employees with language skills. It is primarily in phone-based customer service roles that the bulk of international language recruitment takes place. The majority of positions are open to domestic and international talent and there is no reason why a large portion of these roles cannot be filled by Irish citizens. Being fluent in a foreign language will remain a skill that will significantly benefit any applicant when they are applying for work.

To see a full list of language jobs available through Collins McNicholas please visit collinsmcnicholas.ie/customer-service-languages-jobs/ or if you are fluent in two or more languages, feel free to email your CV to your nearest office.

Niall Murray

Managing Director

Collins McNicholas Recruitment & HR Services