A graduate IT training programme developed in Ireland 10 years ago has emerged as the key weapon in global financial services company Fidelity’s efforts to overcome the skills gap in the ICT sector.
At a time when technology has never been more paramount to the business world, the shortage of ICT skilled workers has become a global problem. At the time of writing, there are some 5,000 ICT job vacancies in Ireland and more than 700,000 unfilled ICT positions across Europe.
It emerged in December that Fidelity Investments is to create 200 new jobs in Dublin and Galway involving a diverse mix of technology, back office operations and enterprise services skills.
The president of Fidelity Investments Ireland, Travis Carpico, said the company has sought inspiration from a programme developed in Ireland 10 years ago called GIFT.
GIFT is understood to have set the direction for a current programme known as Leap.
Today, the financial services giant employs more than 650 Leap and GIFT graduates worldwide, some 200 of them trained in Ireland and who occupy senior technology and management positions in the global company.
Fidelity operates the Leap programme out of Ireland and Raleigh, North Carolina, in the US.
The six-month long programme is designed to accelerate the development of recent IT graduates in business, professional and technical skills. As well as programmes focused on mainframe development, technology infrastructure and engineering, participants also learn the soft skills they need to accelerate their career development, including presentation skills and business etiquette.
Fidelity is currently in the midst of recruiting 25 open slots for the next Leap class which starts in September, with participants graduating in March 2014.
The financial services player works collaboratively with the career centres at colleges and universities across Ireland, including NUIG, UCC, UCD, DCU, UL, Trinity College Dublin and NUI Maynooth.
Hardware skills to soft skills and business etiquette
“We are in Ireland 17 years now and one of the issues that emerged was how do we bring in new graduates and talent? The idea that was embarked upon by the Irish management team 10 years ago was to come up with a repeatable, formalised programme to onboard people and give them the training and skills they need to do a better job.
“The idea started to gain traction and globally, to handle the skills shortage, Fidelity turned to Leap, which is now run out of a base in North Carolina.
“We find it is really important to continue the programme in Ireland, too. Ireland is a place with skilled talent and a stable workforce capable of doing cutting-edge work and pursuing higher-end projects.
“By exposing people to higher-level projects and giving them the right responsibilities they will stay with you.
“This is unique in a world where the economy is not growing fast enough and the workforce is ageing. It is critical to devise the right programmes to encourage young workers to come on board.
“When I started out in the business world there wasn’t even email – but today’s digital natives have been using Twitter since they were teenagers. We are fortunate to be able to leverage this formulised curriculum that goes beyond technology skills to include business skills.
“It is great to see a training programme developed in Ireland resonate and go global. Every year we take in 225 to 250 graduates, including at least 25 in Ireland and we very much see this as an investment in the future.”
Carpico said that participants are typically integrated into existing teams within Fidelity rather than being sent on side projects.
As well as the Leap programme, Fidelity workers lecture 5,700 secondary students every year to introduce them to business, economics, entrepreneurship and the importance of education in positioning them to be part of the global economy.
The financial services giant also funds paid internships for Irish third-level students and is funding 10 DCU Access scholarships, which result in a typical 96pc employment rate.