The fact that there are over 4500 vacancies in the ICT sector is interesting and worrying. There seems to be a view in industry that not enough Irish graduates are up to the mark and this stems from the relative unpopularity of ICT disciplines in the last decade.
So what’s the solution? It’s not obvious because there is a real doubt about the ability of the conventional education system to deliver the required number of high quality computer and technology graduates. Here are some CAO figures from 2012.
|Points||% of students|
Most of the top tier in this table will go down traditional routes; especially medical and law programmes. It is difficult to imagine this population of students being convinced to become software developers or electronic engineers or technologists of any kind.
The bottom tier is of marginal capability if we want to have an international class ICT sector – computing and engineering are not easy subjects. I’ve taught students from this tier for many years and I’m fairly convinced that the academic talent is just not there for demanding, technical jobs like software development.
That leaves the middle two tiers, or 23.6% of School Leavers. This amounts to a little over 12,000 students. When you see this alongside 4500 ICT vacancies, the difficulty of the country’s position becomes clear. It is worth noting that there are currently more than 750 Level 8 programmes in the CAO system from which students can choose!
Even if the numbers were there, the education system is not nimble enough to respond to the needs of the economy. The Minister is talking about changes to teacher training, eliminating the points system and making vague references to strengthening the IOT sector and encouraging the Universities to collaborate. This is all a bit non-specific and unlikely to yield dividends in the short term.
Clearly we need to tap into the wasted resource that is the vast number of unemployed in this country. The Universities and the IOTs need to move in here and not leave it to Solas.