Almost 10 years after the Fast-track to IT (FIT) programme was developed with the IT industry, some 5,000 people are now in full-time employment.
The FIT programme, an industry-led initiative, works in close collaboration with government departments, education and training providers like FAS and the VEC, as well as community organisations.
The original ethos of the programme was to help job seekers participate in the Knowledge Economy and to date some 8,000 people have graduated from FIT courses.
Work shouldn’t stop
The CEO of FIT, Peter Davitt, told Siliconrepublic.com that despite the economic downturn, the fact of the matter is that IT now permeates across all industry sectors and that now more than ever the work of FIT needs to continue.
“We are at a time of economic downturn, yes, but this is also a time for restructuring.
“It’s a time for upskilling and getting ready for the challenges ahead. This economic trauma will pass and workers will need to have the skills for the years ahead.
“We’re hearing a lot about the Smart Economy and the green economy and the reality is this will have to be an inclusive economy. The Smart Economy won’t be about just degrees and PhDs, but people with smart skills.”
At a time of growing unemployment, Davitt said there is a clear need to look at innovative ways that we can help to re-skill people and get them back to work in areas that will support the economic growth of the country.
At present, FIT has more than 2,000 people on courses throughout the country.
Green economy as opportunity
The green economy, in particular, said Davitt, must be seen as an area of opportunity for the thousands of out-of-work people, from plumbers and carpenters to engineers and architects.
“Everything from the smart grid to the installation of fuseboards, RFID tagging and smart meters and Near Area Networks (NANs) to work with renewable energy sources will lead to growth in many different sectors. For example, wind turbines will not only need to be built and installed, but they will communicate via software standards like SCADA.
“The employment potential in Ireland and the UK alone is significant. While in Ireland up to 5,000 new green-technology jobs may be created, as many as 36,500 have been projected for the UK.
“If you look at the recent IDC report on IT in Ireland, it predicts 4pc growth in investment in IT over the next four years and that translates in to 9,000 new jobs.
“We have 2,000 people doing FIT courses and when they graduate they will be at the cutting edge of labour-market needs and opportunities. People also forget that there’s a 100,000 jobs turnover in Ireland in terms of natural churn from people retiring to changing jobs. FIT is about giving people the right skills to compete effectively for those jobs.”
“We’re hearing a lot about the Smart Economy and the green economy
and the reality is this will have to be an inclusive economy.
The Smart Economy won’t be about just degrees and PhDs,
but people with smart skills.”
– Peter Davitt, CEO of FIT
Davitt also points to the opportunities in medical devices and says that while the world economy is being reset, there is no reason why people who had work during the housing boom – mechanics, plumbers, electricians, carpenters, engineers – can’t be reskilled to profit from the new economic opportunities coming our way.
“The Irish economy does not need low skills or skills for manufacturing. There will be sufficient jobs for smart skills and the green economy. We need to be strategic and start now, not waiting five years. We have a highly intelligent and young population. You can decide if the glass is either half full or half empty. For me, this is a time of restructure, it is also a time to grow.
“There are significant opportunities in the green economy and new sectors like renewable energy. Ireland is 65pc dependent on foreign energy. Why don’t we use our own natural energy capacity to create jobs, develop skills and renew the economy?”
Thanks to ICT industry
Davitt paid tribute to the ICT industry in Ireland for its leadership in making FIT a success. “The industry’s involvement has not been lip service. This collective energy is making an impact and 5,000 people are now in full-time employment, 2,500 currently on FIT courses and 1,000 people progressing for further education and training.
“We need to create a Smart Economy and reclaim prosperity for Ireland. This is a restructuring phase. We are going through pain but it is pain for future gain. It’s not over. Now is the time to get people with the right skills and enable them to seize the day in terms of new market opportunities,” Davitt concluded.
To recognise its 10th anniversary, FIT is hosting a conference on the morning of 4 December at the Mansion House in Dublin called ‘Creating an Inclusive Smart Economy’. Guest of honour will be President Mary McAleese and the keynote speaker will be the innovation expert Charles Leadbeater. A key output from the conference will be the creation of an action plan to ensure a more inclusive Smart Economy.
By John Kennedy
Photo: The original ethos of the FIT programme was to help job seekers participate in the Knowledge Economy and now some 8,000 people have graduated from its courses.