Around 37,000 people in Ireland are employed in IT professions, which amount to 1.75 per cent of the country’s workforce. However, some businesses are still having problems finding staff with the specific ICT skills they need.
The Central Statistics Office has found that those working in the sector have some of the highest educational profiles in the economy: over 80 per cent are third level graduates while only a small share has not attainted at least a leaving certificate. However, there still seems to be a gender divide in the industry as just one fifth of employees are female.
Statistics also show that one fifth of all computer analysts or programmers and over a quarter of all software engineers are non-Irish. The main reason for this is that in 2008 almost 300 work permits and green cards were issued for computer analysts and programmers.
According to the National Skills Bulletin 2009, there has been a decline in the manufacturing side of the IT sector in Ireland but skills shortages still exist in other areas of the IT industry.
Many companies still have a strong demand for individuals who not only have the advanced IT skills to install systems, but who can also customise and adapt those systems to a business’ individual needs.
While many industries are suffering from the effects of the economic downturn, the ICT sector seems to be coping well. Over 2003-2008 employment in IT professional occupations grew by 4.8 per cent on average annually; even in 2008 an additional 4,000 jobs were created in these occupations, almost three quarters of which were for computer systems managers.
The National Skills Bulletin shows that there are still shortages of:
• experienced computer systems managers;
• IT professionals with business knowledge and managerial skills;
• programmers in specific software applications with substantial experience;
• experienced professionals with advanced software architecture skills;
• networking experts;
• telecommunications experts;
• IT security experts and research;
• design professionals.
The report also predicts that there could be an increase in the demand for employees with hybrid technology skills as inter-disciplinary activities expand in importance. ICT skills feature in most inter-disciplinary convergence processes, e.g. business and IT, finance and IT or biotechnology and IT.
Speaking about Ireland’s ICT skills, Minister Conor Lenihan has said: “I know that these skills are the ones that will bring employment to people and will make this country competitive and innovative in Europe and elsewhere.”
The Department of Education and Skills is already implementing schemes to integrate ICT with teaching and learning in first and second level schools through the ICT in Schools programme. It is hoped the scheme will provide school children with the knowledge and tools to develop their computer skills in later years.