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More upskilling courses needed to cash in on ICT growth

A Forfás report has called for more and better ICT courses and says that for social welfare changes should be introduced to encourage take-up.

IRELAND MUST IMPROVE both its the quality and quantity of ICT graduates if the country is to take advantage of the predicted growth in the sector according to a new report by Forfás.

The science and technology advisory group say that more needs to be done to encourage people to take up third-level courses in Information and Communications Technology with a special emphasis required to foster the growth of women in the industry.

The report, entitled Addressing Future Demand for High-Level ICT Skills, was jointly carried out by  the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs and estimated that successful strategies could lead to 44,500 new job openings arising from expansion and replacement demand in ICT over the next six years.

The report recommends that third-level computing courses must remain focused on developing core skills within domestic graduates with specialisation then coming in after three or four years.

One of the primary angles of emphasis on development of the ICT sector has been with industry-led conversion programmes to up-skill existing graduates with an interest in working in ICT.

To promote this approach the report calls for a change in eligibility for the retention of social welfare payments for people on upskilling programmes. It advises that those undertaking such courses should be entitled to keep their payments after three months receiving them rather than the current period of nine months.

Today’s report highlighted the need for the provision of industry designed courses to be accelerated and pointed to an investment of €10 million by the Department of Education in such conversion courses which they say has delivered over 1,500 programme places.

Women in IT

The report sets out a target of increasing female acceptances on ICT programmes from 15 per cent to 25 per cent by 2018. It says that a key component of this must be in communicating career advice to young people, especially girls, at second level about the opportunities within ICT.

Other recommendations made today include establish a single website with public and corporate involvement to attract international ICT talent in Ireland.

Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn described the publication of today’s report as “timely” and added that there have already been important changes in early education:

The implementation of key reforms at primary and second level, allied to the introduction of bonus points for maths is also building the mathematical proficiency of students entering third level which is critical to ensuring a strong supply of graduates for all science, technology, engineering and mathematics roles.

“This is evident in the almost 60 per cent increase in the honours level maths take up at Leaving Cert level, over the last three years,” he added.

Forfás estimated the export value of the ICT sector at €70 billion per year and says that in total there were 68,280 ICT professionals working within the ICT sector and across other sectors of the economy last year.

Read: 75 new Irish jobs announced in software testing company >

Read: ’2,000 extra tech staff a year’ with education and visa reforms – ministers >

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Rónán Duffy

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