While he applauds the many initiatives under way to address what is a global skills challenge in the areas of IT and engineering, Mark Ryan, country managing director at Accenture Ireland, says the time has come for a focused national strategy to tackle the issue.
It is in the very growth sectors in our economy, like technology, biomedical pharmaceuticals, research and development, and engineering, that the much-cited skills gap is currently felt the strongest, says Ryan, but the biggest challenges may be yet to come.
He points to recent research from Accenture which found that 45pc of employers surveyed had open roles and positions in areas that required maths and engineering today. The first problem, says Ryan, is the availability of those skills today.
“The second problem is that the message hasn’t yet got to the mammies and daddies of Ireland in relation to what courses students are selecting when they go into university, so if you look at the CAO applications, the number of people going into the STEM subjects is not anywhere near where it needs to be if we’re to fill the skills and talent in the future.”
In its research, Accenture found employers were even more concerned about the skills gap getting worse three years down the line. “And that has huge implications for Ireland’s economic growth,” he says.
Again looking to the future, he points to the area of big data and analytics as one where there will be a huge need for talent and skills in coming years.
“Whether it’s customer insight, whether it’s fraud or compliance, the demand for analytics and for understanding an organisation’s data and really getting information that helps them make decisions, is becoming a massive part of how business is done,” says Ryan. “This will need strong technology skills, and graduates that are very strong in maths and statistics and management science.”
He applauds the fact that Government’s attention is on this problem, he believes Ireland’s small size can give it an advantage and allow citizens to move faster than its competitor countries to fix this, but he says it is time all the stakeholders got together and that, as a country, Ireland displayed greater joined up thinking.
He points out that employers, too, have a responsibility to be part of the solution, and he lays out some ways in which they can do this.
Watch the full interview with Mark Ryan here:
Mark Ryan is a panelist at the Future Jobs Forum, where international keynotes and local leaders will discuss Ireland’s challenges and potential solutions in the global battle for talent, on 8 February at The Convention Centre Dublin