Are Irish software graduates lagging behind their international rivals?

13 Jul 2017

Is the Irish education system failing industries such as IT? According to one of Ireland’s most successful entrepreneurs, yes.

Earlier this summer, a report emerged that was highly critical of the Irish education system, showing a serious gap between what industry needed, and what the country was providing.

Essentially a survey, it found that less than one-third of people felt secondary schools were equipping children with the necessary skills for the digital era.

Future Human

Many more felt that Irish universities were doing a whole lot better but, in comparison to Europe, the general feeling was that Ireland is being left behind.

Digital skills

Jerry Kennelly, a highly successful entrepreneur who made his name selling his photography company Stockbyte to Getty Images for $135m in 2006, appears to agree.

Speaking at The Ludgate Hub recently, Kennelly suggested that Irish graduates are not quite job-ready when they leave university.

“Certainly in my own personal experience, I’ve been very disappointed to see the range of experience from some Irish software engineers, compared with foreign trained engineers,” he said.

Digital skills. Jerry Kennelly was speaking at The Ludgate Hub’s inaugural ‘Ludgate First Tuesdays’ event. Image: The Ludgate Hub

Jerry Kennelly was speaking at The Ludgate Hub’s inaugural ‘Ludgate First Tuesdays’ event. Image: The Ludgate Hub

Digital skills

Parents, in particular, are a problem, according to Kennelly, who pinned some blame on the influence they have on their children’s career choices.

“The parents of my generation and younger are suggesting that their children should work and become professionals, accountants, lawyers, etc, and take the easy money.

“Software engineering and the whole digital space of making stuff from nothing is a really interesting career and not enough people are considering it.”

Interestingly, Kennelly felt that the length of study is also a major concern, arguing that an intense “12-month training period” straight out of secondary school should suffice.

Three- or four-year courses, “messing around with two 13-week semesters”, are a waste, he said. “What a waste of time, what a waste of human capital.”

With thousands of job opportunities in IT, and far fewer graduates emerging each year, it’s inevitable that foreign talent will fill the gap. As this influx is more talented than the Irish graduates, the inevitability grows.

“You could make that change in a very short period of time creating competent engineers who really want to solve problems,” he said. “There’s a terrible shortage of them and it’s so sad. I say it to people in education all the time, yet nobody seems to care.”

Top to bottom

The report mentioned earlier found that 41pc of people would leave their job if another business could offer them better digital skills development opportunities.

Less than half of respondents felt that their employer fully embraced the development of these skills. So, the interest is there from the bottom, but the leadership is not there from the top, be it state-led or business-led change.

Suitably educating future generations is a topic that has covered extensively over the years.

John Kennedy recently wrote of the need to teach critical thinking, collaboration and teamwork skills from as young an age as possible. But digital skills, as a priority, are needed.

“It is now more than possible that most people are likely to enjoy three or four different careers in their lifetimes,” said Kennedy.

“In fact, many of the in-demand jobs in the digital world – such as data scientists, SEO specialists, content marketers and social media experts – didn’t exist 10 years ago.

“A good foundation in languages, science and technology would set students up not only for roles in the IT sector, but for a panoply of industries, from finance to life sciences and many more. And, let’s be realistic – not every kid has a bent for technology or science.”

Gordon Hunt
By Gordon Hunt

Gordon Hunt joined Silicon Republic in October 2014 as a journalist. He spends most of his time avoiding conversations about music, appreciating even the least creative pun and rueing the day he panicked when meeting Paul McGrath. His favourite thing on the internet is the ‘Random Article’ link on Wikipedia.

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