US insurance giant supports Carlow Institute software centre

1 Apr 2009

A software development centre that provides a real-world environment for third and fourth-year software development students was opened last night by the Minister for Education and Science, Batt O’Keeffe TD.

The 1,200 sq ft, glass-enclosed and light-filled centre at the Carlow Institute of Technology will enhance the student learning experience. It boasts 40 fixed work stations, wireless access, state-of-the-art projection facilities, tutorial space and a relaxation area for students to unwind for project meetings and breakout sessions.

The centre was established with support from Unum, the US insurance group which announced a strategic investment in Carlow last year that will ultimately create 200 jobs.

Unum Software Development Centre is part of a series of ties with the institute that will see Unum invest a six-figure sum between now and 2014.

The company is a leading provider of employee benefits products and services, and the largest provider of group and individual disability income protection insurance in the US and UK.

Minister O’Keeffe said the Unum Software Development Centre shows what can be achieved when business and higher education institutions collaborate.

“This new facility is the type of collaborative project that the Government believes will be central to developing Ireland’s knowledge economy.

“The cultivation of an innovation-intensive environment is a core component of the Government’s smart economy plan, as we work together to create the value-added jobs of tomorrow.

“I’d like to thank Unum for choosing Ireland, and in particular Carlow, as the location for its worldwide software solutions support centre. The company will invest in critical infrastructure and employ up to 200 people in its new facility, as well as adding to the higher education opportunities by creating strategic partnerships with IT Carlow in areas such as curriculum and course development, work placement opportunities and graduate recruitment programmes.”

Dr Ruaidhrí Neavyn, president, Institute of Technology Carlow, said the institute is pleased to work with Unum, which currently employs 45 people in Carlow.

“We regard the Unum Software Development Centre as the first ‘concrete’ evidence of the growing ties between the company and this institute. Our academic staff and students value and appreciate the Unum inputs at several levels, and we look forward to building even closer collaborations.

“The Department of Computing & Networking within our School of Science offers a range of programmes, and one of the common threads across them is that they involve a high level of applied learning. The ties with Unum strengthen our ability to ensure students acquire skills that are right up to date and highly relevant to prospective employers.”

Paddy Browne, governing body chairman, Institute of Technology Carlow, welcomed Irish and overseas guests to the Institute’s Learning Resource Centre, where the Unum Software Development Centre is located.

For her part, Kathy Owen, senior vice-president and chief information officer, Unum US, spoke of the value the company place on learning. “Education is a major element of our corporate social responsibility activity. For example, in Tennessee, where our headquarters are located, we offer classroom grants for teaching innovations. In Maine, we began the Maine Coalition for Excellence in Education to bring together educators, policy leaders and business executives.

“In addition, we offer scholarships for both children of employees and talented students in communities where we operate. Unum also donate to a college savings plan when individual employees become parents. The connections with Institute of Technology Carlow allow us extend these education links to Ireland – an important strategic location where we continue to hire skilled graduates.”

Brendan Maher, vice-president and managing director, Unum Ireland, added that in addition to the Unum Software Development Centre, the company is to offer internships in Ireland and the US to students pursuing the four year BSc (hons) in software development at Institute of Technology Carlow.

“The centre opened by Minister O’Keeffe is the main physical aspect of a wider collaboration that will see students from the institute spend time at our sites, where they will apply their learning to ‘real world’ commercial challenges,” Maher said.

By John Kennedy

Pictured: Carlow Institute of Technology