Educating the innovation nation

4 Mar 2010

With EU e-Skills 2010 happening this week, it’s time to look at the ICT picture countrywide and address the skills gap. While many of us use technology on a daily basis and are quite proficient as far as web, software and general computer skills go, 30pc of the Irish population has never accessed the internet.

Fastrack to IT

This research was carried out by the EU Commission and questioned people from age 16 to 74 and on the back of these findings Fastrack to IT (FIT) in partnership with ICT Ireland, Engineers Ireland and Discover Science and Engineering announced plans for e-Skills Week here in Ireland with a mission to highlight the importance of a career in ICT.

“For people working and living in the world of technology, it is surprising and sobering to find out that 30pc of the population do not use the internet in any way, be it for work or conducting their personal affairs,” says Fiona Mullan, chair of FIT and HR director, Microsoft Ireland.

“While it can be seen as a challenge to address this, it is one that can be overcome pretty quickly when you see how pervasive technology is in society these days.”

Tackling the ICT skills gap

Addressing the ICT skills gap is possible with the right level of awareness through events like e-Skills Week and a more inclusive approach, says Mullan.

Considering fewer and fewer students are choosing to study technology at a third level, there is a need to educate young people with a realistic view of IT studies as well as inspire them with role models and exciting technology, as Peter Davitt, CEO of FIT, explains.

However, acquiring ICT skills is not the preserve of those within the formal education system: FIT sees the need to target students, educators, employees and others within the workforce, says Mullan.

“ICT awareness also represents workplace competitiveness, innovation, business value and indeed personal prospects in the current economic climate.

“For students emerging from second- or third-level education, with the appropriate IT skills their future is charted very positively. If they don’t, then it is a much bigger challenge. ICT is not just acquiring these skills but the process of learning through technology, using it as an aid.”

Paddy Casey

Singer Paddy Casey at the launch of Digital Creator

Smart learners

Tomorrow, e-Skills Week will come to an end with a seminar entitled ‘e-Skills for Lifelong Learning’ which will be addressed by the Minister for Lifelong Learning, Seán Haughey TD, followed by two panel discussions: ‘Smart Teachers – Smart Learners’ and ‘Competing with E-Skills’.

Other ICT initiatives in Ireland include Digital Creator, a non-for-profit digital media course from the Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Dún Laoghaire (IADT), which was launched on 1 March.

This course, launched by musician Paddy Casey, combines creative skills such as music- and film-making with digital media, films and even animation. Digital Creator is open to second-level students and adult learners.

By Marie Boran

Topmost photo: Peter Davitt, CEO of FIT, and Fiona Mullan, chair of FIT and HR director, Microsoft Ireland