Irish students are “shooting themselves in the foot” when it comes to realising opportunities in terms of the growing demand for IT workers and instead the industry may have to rely on migrant workers to fill the skills gap. As the IT sector experiences an upturn in jobs, there has been a serious downturn in applications for third-level courses.
Research conducted by Professor Michael Ryan, head of the Computing School at Dublin City University (DCU) indicates that Irish students have moved away from applying for computing degrees, with a drop of more than 75pc since 2001.
However, at the same time job vacancies in the IT sector are understood to have risen by 14pc to 9,200 in the past seven months.
Ryan revealed that four years ago, DCU’s computer courses would have received more than 800 first preferences in Central Applications Office applications. In the past academic year the university received only 180 first preferences for its computer courses.
Much of this is due to negative media reports on the technology downturn of 2001, which had a serious bearing on students and their parents’ college career decisions ever since.
Ryan indicated that parent and student fears that there are no jobs in the sector are currently without foundation. He illustrated this by revealing that in DCU of 145 B.Sc in computer applications graduates in 2003, just two were seeking employment in April 2004. Of 184 graduates in 2004, just six were seeking employment in April 2005 and these six were simply between jobs at the time.
Ryan argues that a technology or science qualification can set a student up for a career in any number of industries. In other words, technology is the new arts course. “Software developed in Ireland is in satellites, airplanes, computer games and music players. By overlooking a career in technology because of adverse publicity, people are shooting themselves in the foot. The Irish software sector is one of the most successful in the world. The industry will grow but a lot of Irish people who might have benefited will be missing their chance.”
By John Kennedy