NI develops novel scheme to boost IT graduates

3 Jul 2006

Invest Northern Ireland (NI) and the NI Department of Education and Learning have banded with the region’s IT industry to establish a series of “conversion academies” that will see third-level graduates with non-IT qualifications upskill in order to meet the financial services industry’s demand for skilled mainframe experts.

Alan Wilson, international IT consultant at Invest NI, told said that Invest NI is working with IT companies such as the NI IT industry federation Momentum and organisations like AMIC, a network of NI colleges.

“Between all of us we are working to create a new conversion academy that will provide third-level graduates with a MSc qualification to meet what we’ve identified as a particular skills gap,” Wilson said.

He explained that the training courses will run over 30 weeks and at their core will focus on the mainframe, a technology still at the heart of many of the world’s banking infrastructures.

There will be effectively three conversion academies located in Belfast, Bangor and Derry.

“We are expecting to produce the first cohort of 100 graduates this year, ramping it up to 300 a year from next year,” Wilson explained. “Anyone with a third-level qualification and who passes an IT aptitude test and interview may join the course.

“At the core of this strategy is the mainframe. Financial services firms are crying out for these skills. The mainframe is no longer viewed as an old technology, banks are still using the entire mainframe software stack and adding in services-oriented architecture (SOA) to the mix,” Wilson said.

The 30-week course will cover object oriented and Java technology, MS Visual Basic and the final semester will focus on mainframe systems.

“We don’t have a particular skills gap in this area but we do see a general problem banks have in finding these skills. The 300 extra graduates per year will be a key hook for financial services investment in NI in the future. We know this from talking to the existing investors here,” Wilson said.

By John Kennedy