Aengus McClean, AOL SVP
Aengus McClean, AOL Platforms SVP. Image: Luke Maxwell

To close the tech skills gap, developing interest is essential

11 Nov 2016

The tech sector is experiencing an immense skills gap, with fewer qualified persons than there are available jobs. How can we close it? Get children interested young.

The skills gap is a problem much talked about in the tech sector. The industry is booming, but there aren’t enough qualified people to fill the jobs that a booming industry creates.

One of the most obvious solutions is to ensure that future generations of students look to tech as a career path. But how can we make sure that people follow that path?

Future Human

Aengus McClean, SVP of AOL Platforms at AOL Technologies, Dublin, says that it has to start young and that children need to be exposed to STEM thinking from an early age. That’s the only way they can develop an interest.

“The biggest thing that we can really look to develop in people is an interest, because everything else will fall from that – an interest in how things work, an interest in the natural sciences and an interest in general engineering and technology,” said McClean.

Ireland is currently in the middle of a revolution, as we seek to capitalise on the burgeoning tech infrastructure that has sprung up in Dublin, Limerick, Cork, Galway and Belfast (as well as a myriad of other locations around the island). Eyes turn to the education system – though it may require reform.

“That means maybe different teachers with different skills, or re-educating or retraining teachers, so we can start in with the fundamentals of engineering, and some fundamentals of technology, in the early years of education,” said McClean.

There are other ways to develop STEM skills in future generations. AOL, for instance, works with organisations and institutions like Dublin City University, CoderDojo and FIT to support maths and tech development.

McClean also identified specific areas that need particular work if young people are to become interested in STEM careers: “If there was one thing that I would change tomorrow in terms of STEM education, it would be to make the maths side of STEM more approachable for more people.”

But exposure will remain the most important step that can be taken.

“The more people that are exposed to the subjects and that develop an interest, the more you will see coming through – and I think it will just really build a very strong basis for our STEM subjects.”

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Kirsty Tobin
By Kirsty Tobin

Kirsty Tobin served as careers editor of Silicon Republic from 2015 up to August 2017. When she was younger, she had a dream where she started and won a fight with a T-Rex, so she’s pretty sure she kicked butt at this, too. Passions include eating all the cake, watching more TV than is healthy and sassy comebacks.

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