Despite having just survived a recession, Ireland still boasts a buoyant IT industry. Whilst this is encouraging, some of the claims about the immediate potential of industry growth are questionable at best.
In a recent speech, Denis Collins of it@cork said that he believed that Irish IT “could be a minimum five-times more (sic) than it is now by Horizon 2020” and that the sector was “positioned as a leading industry but we haven’t stretched it to its full potential”. Whilst Mr. Collins’ ambition of quintupling the industry is laudable, it is also unlikely to be realised.
The potential of seeing any market explode by 500% over a mere seven years is the sort of short-term growth that is historically followed by a sudden sharp decline. I’m sure we all remember the dotcom boom of the late 90s starting spectacularly but swiftly imploding early the next decade. However, there is much to Mr. Collins’ aim that should be supported.
Of his suggestions for improving the standing of Irish IT, the best is Cork’s “Adopt a School” programme. It is through programmes such as this, and the Irish-born CoderDojo enterprise, that the younger generation can be made aware of the upside of IT. It is only through raising awareness of the potential of work within the industry that the sector will be grown in any sustainable fashion.
At present, there is something in the region of 15,000 vacant jobs in IT.
This is more to do with an ongoing dearth of experienced IT professionals than any sudden increase in job creations. Despite our excellent education system, including no-fee University courses, not enough students have pursued IT over the last twenty years. For whatever reason, people have just not chosen IT and now we are left with a complete lack of home-grown resource.
An increase in demand for senior IT workers across Europe will not help matters; only the companies willing and able to offer the best rates or remuneration packages will continue unaffected by this impending skills drought.
Businesses unable or unwilling to compete may continue with gaping holes in their IT department.
This is not a problem that can be resolved quickly but, rather than solely investing in the ‘quick fix’ of bringing in foreign experts, a focus must also fall on helping those in education realise that a career in IT will offer security, rapid career development and excellent earning potential. One of the comments Collins made in his speech was that “in order for Ireland to be seen as a relevant global IT cluster, it is imperative that effective branding is put in place to communicate the message globally”.
Before we think globally, we need to think locally and make work within the Irish IT industry a viable career choice for the next generation. Without encouraging their involvement and contribution, being seen as a relevant global IT cluster is going to be as unlikely a prospect as quintupling the size of an industry in seven years.