Pilot programme looks to upskill Ireland’s second-level students around digital technologies

21 Jun 2012

Grainne Blair pictured at the Digital Hub's Future Creators showcase in Dublin this afternoon. Image credit: Marc O'Sullivan

With Ireland’s current skills gap in the IT sector, particularly around coding and app development, a new pilot programme at the Government’s Digital Hub initiative has been upskilling 20 students from Dublin in digital technologies. Today, the students revealed their projects at a special showcase in the capital.

The students themselves all hail from the Liberties area of Dublin, and they took part in the after-school programme – Future Creators – at the Digital Hub over the past academic year where they were tutored by the e-learning team at the Digital Hub, as well as experts in the digital and film area from the National College of Art and Design (NCAD).

They developed iPhone apps in addition to projects around film, gaming, photography, audio and digital embroidery.

One of the students, 14-year-old Darragh Byrne created an app based on one topic: curry!

“It was totally different to the type of stuff we learn at school.  I made an app about curry because I’m a bit obsessed with finding the best curry in Ireland.  You can use the app to find restaurants in your location that sell curry and to review and rate them,” he said.

Byrne said that he always had an interest in digital technologies, but he said that course has taught him new skills around creating his own digital products.  
“Now I think this might be something I’d like to work at when I’ve finished school,” he added.

Ronan Boland and Darragh Byrne highlight a wrestling app that was developed during Future Creators

Ronan Boland and Darragh Byrne highlight a wrestling app that was developed during Future Creators

Speaking at today’s event Dr Stephen Brennan, who is the chief strategy officer at The Digital Hub, said that the Future Creators model can provide insights for the Department of Education, which is examining how to incorporate computer science and digital tools into the secondary school syllabus.

“Our initial evaluation indicates that participation in Future Creators led students to perform better in the regular school environment. Their teachers have pointed to increased levels of commitment from students who might otherwise have been at risk of early school-leaving.”

Brennan said that the students remained highly committed to completing the Future Creators programme over the past nine months. He said that over 80pc of the students who began the course in September received certificates of completion today.

He also said that the mainstreaming of programmes like Future Creators and the integration of digital into the school syllabus would be “vital” to address skills shortages in Ireland’s ICT and digital industries.

“Unemployment levels in Ireland are painfully high at present but, at the same time, the digital and ICT industries are struggling to find employees with the requisite skills.”

Brennan referred to how many digital businesses here are recruiting employees from outside Ireland because our present education system not producing graduates with expertise in areas such as coding, computer programming and app development.

He said he hoped that the pilot programme would influence the Department’s deliberations on the new Junior Certificate syllabus.

“We need to build on young people’s innate knowledge, enthusiasm and passion for digital, and provide them with educational opportunities that allow them develop skills that make them highly employable,” added Brennan.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic