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Since last September, Michael Stone has been meeting with the largest employers in the International Financial Services Centre in the north-east inner city.
Stone is in charge of implementing the North East Inner City Initiative, a government-backed effort at the “social and economic regeneration of the area”.
It was sparked by a string of high-profile drugs-related shootings in the area, which led to a safari-like visit by then-Taoiseach Enda Kenny, and then study and report from Kieran Mulvey.
This report included, among many other things, recommendations on how to improve local residents’ job prospects. It mentions the IFSC as a “business and employment asset”.
In his visits to the IFSC, Stone says he has met with representatives from 16 companies to date.
Stone and his team were looking in part for funding for local community projects, but they also wanted to know what jobs these companies could provide for locals in the area.
Numbers so far have been small, says Michael O’Riordain, who leads the programme office for the initiative on Sean McDermott Street.
The largest companies have since September offered fewer than 10 jobs to north-east inner-city locals, O’Riordain said.
There are several reasons why these figures are small, O’Riordain says.
Navigating company policies can be tricky, and some ask for third-level qualifications before you even get an interview, he says.
The programme office does try to link people up. O’Riordain says that he approaches companies and asks what jobs are available.
He and his colleagues then look at the live register of unemployed people in the area, pull out possible candidates, and send in CVs to the companies. “So far, a small number of people have been placed and we still have a number of irons in the fire,” he says.
Some of these jobs are highly skilled, he says. “Can we guarantee that we’re going to have 20 or 30 people who have the qualifications that these companies need?” asks O’Riordain. “At the minute I don’t think so.”
Instead, he says the idea is to get some local people employed who can then act as “role models” for others in their communities.
O’Riordain says that, in addition to the 16 largest companies hiring a small number of locals, there have been other work-related programmes. Fifty men have been on a construction-skills course within the area.
No women applied for the course, O’Riordain said. But of those hired by the 16 largest companies, half have been women, he says.
Any outreach to the big companies in the IFSC and the Docklands is welcome, says Marie Sherlock, a local representative for the Labour Party.
But she questions whether skimming a few people is the best way to support those in the area. “Is it to ensure the improvement in living standards of a broad number of people or dramatically increase the living standards of a small number of people?”
She points to data from the 2016 census, which shows that of the 5,148 households in the electoral divisions of Mountjoy A and B, Rotunda A and B and North Dock C, 21 percent are headed by a semi-skilled or unskilled person. (The figure’s 14 percent for Dublin city overall.)
There are also fewer people in managerial and professional positions living in the north-east-inner-city, says Sherlock. However, the numbers in skilled trades are slightly above average for Dublin.
The North East Inner City Initiative’s (NEICI’s) approach of creating a “few role models”, says Sherlock, could work to the detriment of the many. “That is not going to lift a whole area,” she says.
She sees the solution to that as jobs in other off-shoot industries, in catering and cleaning, she says. Construction work is often temporary, Sherlock says.
Across the river, efforts to get more locals locally employed on construction sites have been slower than some had expected. Local apprenticeships and training courses, therefore, are key, says Sherlock.
Those are measures that independent Councillor Christy Burke has been pushing for, too.
Big tech and financial companies have not done enough so far to create jobs for locals in the north-east-inner city, he says.
“I’d certainly like to see more of a commitment to bring on board their neighbours,” he says. “Let’s bring in these young men and women in order to train them up and have skills.”
In that sense, the NEICI’s efforts have been “a breath of fresh air”, says Burke, in gaining local employment.
Burke, however, says that requiring third-level qualifications is “a kick to touch” by the big companies when it comes to hiring locally.
“You don’t have to be a genius to work in these companies,” he says. “Everybody gets trained. Everybody has skills. Everybody has talent. We need to explore and we need lead by example and so should the private sector.”
Mark Fay, who runs K & A Stores on Sheriff Street, says there is a narrative out there about the north-east inner-city that no one is employed in these large companies.
But, “We have several local people down here that are working in the likes of PricewaterhouseCoopers and Citibank,” says Fay.
For the most part, the NEICI’s efforts have been positive for the area so far, Fay adds. He hopes more locals will find employment in the coming months.
Says O’Riordain, of the NEICI’s programme office: “We absolutely don’t want this to be tokenism. We want them [the companies] to be honest.”
O’Riordain says large financial and technology companies can “do tokenism very well. They can give you whatever they want to give you.” But that his efforts are about sustainable careers, careers with room to advance.
“We’re simply putting it up to the big companies for them to give us something a bit better for people,” he says. “In a year’s time, we want to see these people still in work.”
What jobs do the companies say need 3rd level qualifications but Christy Burke doesn’t think so?
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