IT is booming, but can the system keep up with demand?

IT imageIT should be the ‘sector to watch’ in 2011, according to the Morgan McKinley Irish Employment Monitor, conducted in December 2010 and recently released. According to the report, the IT sector is ‘particularly buoyant’. This trend is reflected in the job postings on the site: currently 17.5 per cent of vacancies on the site are in the IT sector or looking for IT graduates, the biggest single sector.
There have been several recent job announcements in the IT sector (for example, Paypal and Google in the South, Kana software and SQS in Belfast). Anecdotal evidence points to an undersupply of developers, with some IT development and high-tech manufacturing positions proving almost impossible to fill. This represents a huge opportunity for suitably qualified graduates.
However, computer science courses are struggling to produce enough graduates to meet this need. The most recent HEA study shows that these courses have the highest drop-out rate in the country, with 27 per cent leaving within the first year. The latest PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) report found that Irish students were significantly below the OECD average for maths – these two facts that cannot be separated. Insufficient ICT resources in Irish schools was the primary failing highlighted in the PISA report, and it has long been argued (for example, by the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs) that a radical reform of the educational system from the age of 9 is required for Ireland to develop the maths skills necessary to produce graduates who can meet the needs of the IT industry in the years ahead.
Current Irish graduates should look at their skill sets and qualifications – there are entry points into the IT sector beyond Java or .NET developers. For example, the wider technology industry needs project managers, programme and development managers, and skills in quality assurance and testing. And communication is always vital in any industry – people who can write good technical documents will also find career opportunities in this area.

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