How CIT is addressing the IT skills shortage

17 Feb 2012

Tim Horgan, head of the Cloud Computing Centre of Excellence at Cork Institute of Technology, talks about what needs to be done to encourage more people to enter the tech sector and what CIT is doing to boost students’ skills.

The number of job opportunities in the IT industry is continuing to grow at a rapid rate. Last year, IDA client companies created 13,000 jobs and the ICT, life-sciences and digital-media sectors created the majority of these roles.

The trend seems to be continuing this year – just last week, companies such as HP, Abbott Ireland and Big Fish Games announced almost 500 jobs.

However, the demand is outweighing the supply and according to Enterprise Ireland, there are 2,500 job vacancies in the IT sector. The recently released ICT Action Plan reported that 55pc of high-level ICT skills are being met through inward migration, meaning more needs to be done to boost the domestic market.

Horgan said there are a number of different reasons why the uptake in IT subjects at third level is low and why it is not meeting the demand from the industry.

“From a higher education perspective, there was a lack of uptake in IT courses at third level in the Celtic Tiger years because people opted to take different career paths,” he said.

“I also personally believe that higher education, such as universities and institutes of technology, are not producing graduates with the required skill sets. The programmes in many higher education institutes haven’t really changed to match the needs of the industry.

“I would argue that we have something unique here at CIT in that we have adapted. What we’ve done is that we’ve gone out to the industry and asked them what they need,” he said.

Horgan explained CIT had an engagement policy with the IT sector, where representatives from CIT visit companies in the industry to understand what their needs are when looking to hire graduates. They then engage with industry partners to develop programmes to tackle the skills shortage within the sector.

“From a very local perspective here we’re continuously – on a weekly basis – being approached from employers looking for people who have skills in programming in Java and C, virtualisation, networking and application development,” he said.

CIT offers numerous IT courses at undergraduate and post-graduate level, including two new conversion courses launched as part of the Government’s ICT Action Plan – a Higher Diploma in Science in Cloud Computing and a Higher Diploma in Science in Cloud and Mobile Software Development. These courses allow graduates from non-computing backgrounds to reskill in other IT-related areas with plenty of job vacancies.

"What I believe is good about (the ICT Action Plan) is that there are short-term, medium-term and long-term proposals identified,” said Horgan.

“What’s interesting about that is that it’s being driven by the industry and academic experts, so I believe that the Government will hear the message. I think we have a roadmap and we need to implement the action plan now,” he said.

If we want to keep building up Irish IT talent, we need to encourage younger students in primary and secondary schools to get into the area. Horgan believes schools give too much emphasis on teaching office applications rather than coding skills necessary to boost the IT sector. “My own feedback that I’m getting from students is that they find that quite boring and not engaging,” he added.

“I believe that there should be a new open-source curriculum and that should be designed in conjunction with the industry and with higher-level education input. I also believe that the CoderDojo initiative is a brilliant initiative and is something that could be expanded out into primary and secondary schools,” he said.

Siliconrepublic.com is hosting Skills February, a month dedicated to news, reports, interviews and videos covering a range of topics on the digital skills debate.

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