Ireland has been extremely successful in developing an internationally renowned centre for medical technology, with over 250 companies currently developing and manufacturing medical technologies. Ireland currently has €9.4 billion in MedTech exports annually making us Europe’s 2nd largest MedTech exporter, according to IDA Ireland.
MedTech products are non-metabolic products that include instruments, devices or diagnostic equipment which helps to prevent diseases and/or improve quality of life. 18 of the world’s top 25 medical technology companies have a base in Ireland with 50% of the 300 MedTech companies based here are indigenous.
Ireland has a deep pool of experienced and highly trained technical talent, and this progressive community has already encouraged an increasing number of companies to expand operations across multiple facilities.
The market has changed and there is a raging war on talent. For example, we at CareerWise have seen a 38% increase in the availability of engineering positions compared to this time last year. Employment rates have fallen below 10% and will continue in this direction for the foreseeable future.
Companies are actively hiring and when suitable candidates apply for roles, the company with the most efficient recruitment process wins the STAR candidate. However, there are some red flags.
Ireland still has a critical shortage of engineers across all engineering disciplines as well as an acute need for technicians and senior process scientists and engineers in the medical-device sector.
There is an obvious gap for talent with 3 – 5 years experience as this was the generation that left Ireland for international opportunities.
The down side to this war on talent is that salaries and contractor rates are increasing upwards which affects the overall competiveness of Ireland. We need more competition for the positions currently available.
There is considerable diversity among medical device production processes. While production of some medical devices products are heavily automated, many devices are assembled, tested and packaged manually. This diversity means that there are considerable variations in the mix of skills required between different medical devices production operations. These include shortages in engineering including design, process, control, mechanical, quality, automation, chemical processing and manufacturing.
Medical technologies are also becoming increasingly more complex, and many companies are now engaged in research and development (R&D) for example Stryker, Abbott, Cook Medical and Boston Scientific are just a few who have invested in R&D in recent years.
As a result of the investment in R&D we are seeing an increase in the number of specialist roles with very specific skills requirements, such as materials scientists and design engineers, who are all required to support the R & D process.
Consequently, there is also an increased need for lean production, agile processes and cost-saving efficiency.
Multinationals will only continue to come to Ireland if we have the high skilled talent available to fill these positions which benefits all of Irish society. Government need to be more aggressive in attracting back our top talent that have emmigrated to other countries since 2009.
It is clear that the depth of the economic recession which Ireland experienced has left many Irish cynical when reading stories about economic recovery. However, more tangible efforts need to be shown by government, i.e. greater assistance for SME, further grant assistance, removal of employer PRSI, overall greater tax benefits etc.
Multinationals need to play their part within this equation also . More graduate recruitment places need to be created, as this has taken a significant reduction over the last six years.
While good progress has been made on this front, the educational sector needs to do more to support in the provision of relevant undergraduate and post graduate programmes. We need more alignment with third level colleges for the jobs that are available in Ireland. We are seeing over 50,000 Leaving Cert Students head off to third level education every year. How many of these courses are aligned with the multinational positions available?
More trade apprenticeships need to be available for those who do not want the academic route. Trade candidates often return to college to up-skill in the area of Automation / Mechanical Engineering / Production Technology and typically are very well rounded individuals.
In summary, I feel Ireland can remain a significant player in the MedTech sector if it can address the obvious skills gaps and the ways in which we can attract our skilled/experienced ex pats home.
Article by Mike Morrissey (Director, CareerWise Recruitment)
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