The Irish Computer Society (ICS) has warned that CAO applications for IT courses in 2003 could drop even further than the low levels experienced last year, sparking fears that not only are students missing out on long-term job prospects but that the industry here may experience a crippling skills shortage when growth eventually returns to the industry.
The warning came from the ICS in advance of the first selection of third-level courses by Irish students when the CAO closed on 1 February. According to the society, a further fall in numbers will cause future skills shortage problems for Irish companies as the industry may not be able to field the estimated 14,000 new IT professional jobs predicted for 2005.
Frank Cronin, ICS chief executive, attributed the declining interest in third-level IT courses to recent news reports of job losses in the IT industry, lack of IT courses at second level, lack of awareness of long-term career opportunities in the IT sector and the current unsound points system that discourages the pursuit of technical subjects for the Leaving Cert.
Cronin called on students, parents and career guidance counsellors to be more aware of the flexible and high-paying careers in the IT industry that transcend not just IT companies but traditional industries that have come to rely on IT and e-business. He also expressed concern about how significant drops in the student numbers opting for technology courses could have on Ireland’s reputation as a centre of IT excellence and may discourage overseas investors and research and development opportunities.
“I think this year the fall in IT course applications is likely to get worse. I’m not a doomsayer, but the honest answer is that if there is an upturn in applications it would be a pleasant surprise,” Cronin told siliconrepublic.com.
By John Kennedy