The leaders of Ireland’s 90,000-strong tech industry have expressed concern at the sharp decline in the number of students choosing computer courses at third level. They warn that if the cycle isn’t reversed quickly Ireland will suffer a severe skills shortage within the next five years.
They have also called on the Department of Education to improve the way maths and science are taught in Irish schools.
Recent reports about company closures are also informing students’ and parents’ college choices but ICT Ireland director Kathryn Raleigh said the reports do not give the full economic picture.
“Students should be aware that the technology sector is a great place in which to work,” said Raleigh. “Courses in this field will provide graduates with the skills and knowledge needed for success throughout their life.”
She pointed out that of the 71 industry projects secured by the IDA in 2006, resulting in 6,000 new jobs in the Irish economy, more than half involved technology companies.
Of these 71 projects, 39 were new investments to Ireland and 32 were expansions by existing companies.
On the company closures situation, Raleigh said: “‘The global economy is dynamic and companies are certainly moving up the value chain in Ireland. For every announcement of closures in the past two months, there has been an equivalent number of announcements of new jobs created, most recently by IBM and Intel, at the higher end of the scale.
“Ensuring that students have transferable skills in IT and engineering is one way of ensuring that Ireland benefits from globalisation.”
Raleigh went on: “The technology sector in Ireland remains one step ahead of the game by continuing to attract high-value jobs in the form of research and development, strategic manufacturing and sales and marketing, making it an ideal sector for school leavers looking to equip themselves with a career in a dynamic and global environment.”
However, if Ireland is to sustain this level of employment, she said the sector needs to have access to a large number of highly qualified young people.
“Unless there is significant additional investment in the education system and immediate reform of maths and science curricula at second level, the ICT sector in Ireland will suffer significant skill shortages over the next five years, which in turn will mean that Ireland will have failed to transform itself into a true knowledge economy.”
By John Kennedy