Today is day three of Emma McNamara's tour around the country, looking at jobs in different sectors of the economy. Emma has been to Waterford looking at call centre jobs, Dundalk and high-tech jobs, and today she is in Sligo to look at the pharmaceutical sector.
Pharmaceuticals are big business in Ireland. They generate more than half of our exports and in fact Ireland is one of the biggest net exporters of medicines in the world. Nine out of the top ten companies in the world are based here, while five of the world's top ten medicines are made here. The sector employs nearly 25,000 people. The same amount again are employed in companies servicing the sector. Most recently, AbbVie, once a part of Abbott, announced a 175 job €85m expansion in Sligo last month.
One of the Irish companies servicing the pharma sector - and others - is Sligo headquartered Lotus Works. Its head of Human Resources Mark Butler says that the company has increased its headcount by 60% over the last few years and has 240 people employed in Ireland and another 260 in the US. He says the company's support function in Sligo is crucial for the company's operations. As the company is very busy, Mr Butler says it is always looking for talented engineers and technicians to help the company grow. He says the process of attracting the correct skills and people can sometimes prove very challenging.
Enterprise Ireland's chief executive Julie Sinnamon says it is a common misconception that foreign firms are the bigger employer here, and that those foreign firms here encourage growth in Irish business. Ms Sinnamon says there is a growing pool of strong Irish firms and both the multi-national and indigenous firms involved in the pharma sector employ about the same amount. About €19 billion a year is spent by both multi-nationals and Irish companies each in the local economy - on raw materials, services and wages. The Enterprise Ireland chief says that Irish companies are in a strong position after the investment from multi-nationals in the sector and the increased level of co-operation with third level institutions. She says this has created a strong feed-bed for new Irish firms.
Professor Terri Scott, head of Sligo IT, says that the links between business and the college is very strong. Sligo IT works with companies to create a suitable curriculum, which can be up and running within a short timeframe. She says the college's links with GlaxosmithKline is a great example of how such a scheme can work, adding that the college is able to tailor programmes quickly to the company's needs. On the problem of youth unemployment, she says that through the Springboard programme, Sligo IT is targeting those on the Live Register. The Professor says that unemployed people should think about jobs and an "exciting career" in the pharma sector, adding that support and course are available to them.
Stiefel is a part of GlaxosmithKline, which has operations in Sligo. Stiefel's Steve Burgess says the plant was recently upgraded by its parent company, which ensures it has a bright future ahead of it. Describing the investment as a fantastic vote of confidence in Sligo, he says the company is investing heavily in both the facility and its staff. The Sligo plant, which is the centre of dermatology for the company, has 180 employees across a wide range of disciplines. He says the company will be launching new products this year and next.