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From AI to semiconductors and from biopharmaceuticals and engineering to language skills, Ireland provides the talent and skills that FDI companies need to start fast and maintain momentum as they grow. 

Ireland has extraordinary talent. In this article, we show what makes Ireland such a rich source of skills, and hear directly from some of these companies about their experiences of hiring and scaling in Ireland.
But first: how is a small country in population terms, situated on Europe’s Western edge, able to make this claim? By its population, which is one of the youngest and best educated in Europe. And by being part of the European Union, giving full access to the EU labour market of close to 200 million people.
In Ireland, we like to think our size is our strength. We’re big enough to have welcomed more than 1,800 multinationals to these shores over 75 years, and today they collectively employ more than 300,000 people. At the same time, we’re small and agile enough to react quickly to changing skills needs, and identify trends early.

Identifying talent trends

Artificial Intelligence might have exploded into common conversations in the past two years; we’ve been getting ready for this moment for the past two decades, by building up expertise in data analytics, one of the foundational technologies behind generative AI.
Cybersecurity is a field that’s constantly evolving, and in need of skills; to meet this long standing need, Ireland developed a pioneering programme. In 2020, the Irish Universities Association (IUA) was awarded €12.3 million through Ireland’s Department of Further and Higher Education to become the first country in Europe to establish a national framework for nationally accredited micro-credentials. It put this funding to use in developing cyberskills micro-credential programmes together with industry. These highly focused short courses suit companies that want to upskill internal staff or access new talent in critical areas such as network systems, security standards and risk, security architecture, malware, reverse engineering and more.
Two years later, in 2022, Ireland was one of only a few countries to make progress in addressing the global problem of cybersecurity talent shortages. A report by ISC2, the independent cybersecurity professional group, found that Ireland reduced its cybersecurity skills gap by 19.5%, whereas the global gap grew by 26.2%.

Skills in multiple disciplines

Countless companies pay tribute to the talent on offer in Ireland across multiple disciplines, from skills spanning engineering and software development to facility with languages, customer service, backoffice functions, and more.

Bloomberg’s Global FDI Study from 2023 showed that investors rank Ireland well above average for access to talent.

It was a factor in investment decisions in 47% of investors choosing Ireland, compared to 29% for other locations.
IDA Ireland CEO Michael Lohan explains that Ireland’s talent pipeline relies on two strong flows. “First of all, we’re developing that talent ourselves through our own education system. And secondly, we’re an open economy so we attract a lot of talent in. We have free flow of talent from around the globe into Ireland,” he told CNBC’s Last Call.
Zendesk CEO Mikkel Svane agrees. “Ireland has really become a place where a lot of Europeans want to work and we've been very lucky in attracting great talent from all over Europe that are now working in Dublin,” he says.

Attracting international talent to Ireland

In fact, international and multicultural talent is a growing feature of Ireland’s workforce. The latest data from the Central Statistics Office shows there are close to 470,000 people working in Ireland who are non-Irish citizens, a 21% increase since 2016. We also attract people to relocate from other countries outside the EU, with processes that smooth the path for skilled workers.
Sequoia Capital’s recent Atlas report on Europe’s technical talent ranked Dublin top of the list in five categories – more than any other European city. Per capita, Ireland’s capital has more skilled people working in AI and machine learning, data science, DevOps, finance, cybersecurity, server and cloud computing. “It is no surprise that tech giants in Dublin, such as Amazon and Microsoft, are building out their AI teams using the city’s pool of AI talent,” Sequoia concluded.

Microsoft recently echoed this finding, saying that Ireland is on the “world stage” for artificial intelligence.

“The industry here, the attraction of foreign investment and the ability of Ireland, enables it to really be a leader across the EU, US and around the world,” said Mary Snapp, the company’s vice president of strategic initiatives, at a conference in Dublin. 

Scaling sales teams for Europe

And the talent goes beyond technology skills: Frontline Ventures’ European Expansion Report highlighted the sales expertise that’s critical to helping companies scale and grow. “For companies targeting mid-market and SMB customers, Dublin has a deep talent pool with experience scaling inbound sales teams to cover most of Europe from a single location,” Frontline found.
That’s been the experience of Vanta, a cybersecurity company that set up a base in Ireland in 2022. Paolo Rodriguez, the company’s head of international, points to another asset in Ireland’s favour: the availability of talent that specifically helps scaling companies to set up a sales and support hub to serve multiple regions from one place. “We have a talent pool that allows us to serve a large population in a very effective way, both with language and specialisation skills like sales or customer success.”

Skills aligned to industry needs

A combination of third-level education that’s closely aligned with industry needs, and our longstanding connection with multinationals, means that there’s a cadre of managers and leaders, often with direct experience of starting or scaling an overseas company within Ireland.
Rodriguez himself is proof of this, having served at the Irish offices of Google and Dropbox earlier in his career. He made a strong case to Vanta HQ that Dublin should be the location for its international headquarters, above other destinations. “English is the native language so if it’s a US or international company, it makes everything incredibly easy,” he says.  
That’s true no matter where in Ireland a company chooses to locate.

Medtech company Dexcom was so sure of tapping into talent near Galway in the West of Ireland that it’s investing $327 million in a facility with up to 1,000 high-tech jobs.

The location is no accident; Dexcom is surrounded by operations of almost 20 other medtech providers in the area. “Ireland has an exceptional talent pool and an established medtech sector, making Athenry the perfect location for us,” says Barry Regan, Dexcom’s Executive Vice President of Global Operations.
Galway was also the preferred location for the governance software company Diligent, which chose the city over 20 possible locations around Europe. Ruairi Conroy, Diligent’s VP of sales development, says the presence of University of Galway and Atlantic Technological University swung the deal in favour of the West of Ireland. He noted their industry focused third-level courses and their history of partnering with employers in the region.  

An adaptable workforce

Diligent’s story also shows the benefit of an adaptable workforce. The company was setting up in Ireland in late 2020, after COVID-19 had hit, and it was able to help people in the area, who had been working in the hospitality sector, pivot to customer service roles. As a result, Diligent quickly cleared its original target of hiring 200 people. Today, the Galway site has 285 employees and has established itself as one of the company’s three core global hubs. It’s also one of the most multifunctional offices in the Diligent network, with roles ranging from 24/7 customer support and customer success, to sales, human resources, marketing, and finance. 
Sometimes, talent is needed for roles outside the companies themselves. Seamus Carroll, Vice President with IDA Ireland, points out that the country’s track record of attracting semiconductor fabs has developed native skills in related areas like engineering and construction. “Constructing a semiconductor fab is a highly specialised and expensive process, down to the level of welders employed. Ireland is fortunate to have a world-leading capability in fab engineering and construction,” Carroll says.

“Ireland is fortunate to have a world-leading capability in fab engineering and construction” - Seamus Carroll, Vice President at IDA Ireland.

Financial services companies have also found the talent they need in Ireland. even in highly specific roles. State Street has multiple offices in Ireland and it added a new cybersecurity unit to its operations in Kilkenny, aiming to employ up to 400 people. Terri Dempsey, country head for the company, says: “Kilkenny’s thriving talent pool and dynamic innovation landscape make it an ideal base for our established cybersecurity fusion centre and enables us to actively promote female participation in the tech industry.”

Driving innovation in financial services

In May 2023, BNY Mellon announced an €8 million investment in a Digital R&D Hub in Dublin that will focus on innovation in AI, machine learning, and data analytics for global clients. Paul Kilcullen, CEO of the bank’s Irish Funds Services group, says this “helps cement Ireland’s position at the forefront in driving innovation in the financial services sector globally”.  

Ireland’s talent story is about more than people at the earliest stages of their careers: the country has also been successfully attracting leading researchers in a variety of fields to collaborate with universities and further education institutes. One example of this is Professor Sakis Mantalaris, a leading figure in cell therapy research. In early 2024, he received a €4.88 million award under Science Foundation Ireland’s Research Professorship Programme which aims to attract world-class researchers.
A joint appointment with Trinity College Dublin and the National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training (NIBRT), the award will facilitate Prof Mantalaris and a team of researchers in spearheading a pioneering research programme to improve the biomanufacturing of cellular therapeutics that could potentially lead to improved clinical outcomes.

Across Ireland, knowledge-intensive businesses are finding the talent they need, from school leavers and university graduates right up to experienced professionals, international leaders and distinguished researchers.

Visit get in touch below to discover how Ireland produces, attracts, and develops the skills for this generation of companies and the ones to follow.