Skill shortages continue in IT and science

3 Jul 2009

Despite the rise in unemployment in Ireland, there are still significant skills shortages in the areas of IT, science, sales/marketing, health, accountancy, engineering and management, the Expert Group on Future Skills said today.

The sharp negative turn in the Irish labour market was particularly hard felt in the fields of construction, manufacturing hospitality and transport.

The report identifies that the groups at higher risk of unemployment are males, the under 25s, those with lower levels of education, non-Irish nationals, residents of the BMW (Border Midlands and West) region, those employed in construction and services sectors and those employed in trades, particularly carpenters, bricklayers and plasterers, and labourers.

While all of this is happening, the Expert Skills Group said there has been progress in turning Ireland into a high value-added economy in terms of skills. The percentage of those with below Leaving Certificate qualifications has shrunk from 29pc in 2005 to 24pc in 2008, and the share with honours degree or above has increased from 20pc in 2005 to 25pc in 2008.

As a result of the recession, the extent of skills and labour shortages in Ireland has fallen, with many occupations now in surplus. There are no labour shortages in Ireland at present.

However, despite rising unemployment, skill shortages have been identified in the specialised high-skill areas of IT, science, sales/marketing, health, accountancy, engineering and management.

Demand is confined to those with third-level qualifications and with specific expertise and experience. For example, companies are still finding it difficult to source advanced IT system management skills, experienced engineers for the development and implementation of lean manufacturing processes and scientific technicians for development and prototyping of specific medical devices.

“The Government is currently developing a strategy designed to create more employment opportunities in the specialised areas associated with research, IT and the green economy,” said the Minister for Lifelong Learning, Sean Haughey TD.

“In pursuance of this strategy, the Government is introducing a number of measures to facilitate the upskilling of the labour force, with a particular emphasis on the lower skilled,” Minister Haughey added.

The chair of the Expert Group Una Halligan said that Ireland needs to upskill to fight rising unemployment. “It is those with third-level qualifications and with specific experience who are in demand. Initiatives such as the recently announced Work Placement Programmes for graduates in identified strategic areas of focus for the economy, which enhance work experience, are very welcome.

“The Expert Group will examine areas of skills shortage to see what actions can be taken to help meet employers’ recruitment needs,” Halligan said.

By John Kennedy