An attractive new ICT apprenticeship-style option for Irish enterprises, says Davitt of FIT
Do you need some more tech-savvy staff? Would you like a certified ICT Associate Professional at a very affordable level? That is the very attractive proposition to Irish businesses, especially those in technology and related ‘smart economy’ sectors, from FIT—Fastrack to IT. We have developed the ICT Associate Professional programme as a practical dual-education pathway to employment in technology for young people and a contribution to the IT skills shortage that is hampering the potential of many enterprises in Ireland.
FIT is an industry-led initiative that has seen over 13,000 jobseekers complete its skills training programmes since it was set up in 1999. Over 9,500 or 73% have progressed to relevant employment while there are 2,500 current participants in FIT training programmes. The ICT Associate Professional is an ambitious new initiative that involves two years of combined college and on-the-job skills development leading to a Diploma in ICT Technologies at QQI Level 6.
It came from a recommendation of the ICT Skills Audit published by FIT in 2013. That audit highlighted the range of skills in the gap. We know there is strong demand in the IT industry for people with university degrees and doctorates, and the media sometimes highlight it. But there are actually more vacancies for people with practical IT skills at NFQ Level 5/6 and especially with some work experience. Of the approximately 7,000 current vacancies identified by the skills audit, about 5,000 are for employees at this level. Respondents to the audit survey also stressed the need for all jobseekers, including graduates, to have a greater appreciation of the demands of business and the importance of real-life skills and practical work experience. That is where the Associate Professional training is focussed.
The programme has been endorsed by our industry partners and funded by government with 200 places approved for a rolling start from March in various centres including Dublin and Cork, the Midlands and the West. The initial sponsoring employers include Accenture, Microsoft, IBM, SAP and Version 1 along with a growing number of SMEs. The participants begin with six months in full-time college education but with agreed work placement sponsors. After that it is an ‘earn-as-you-learn’ model—they work for three days a week, two days in college, until the final six months when they work a four-day week with just one education day.
“Respondents to the audit survey also stressed the need for all jobseekers, including graduates, to have a greater appreciation of the demands of business and the importance of real-life skills and practical work experience. That is where the Associate Professional training is focussed”
From the sponsoring employers’ point of view, we see this as a kind of modern apprenticeship with the traditional return to the employer. You are developing a skilled person to add to the pool in your industry. That person is not starting unskilled but will have completed six intensive training months before starting so can be immediately productive. You also have the definite possibility that you will gain a valuable employee who will be thoroughly familiar with your business, colleagues and customers.
FIT is supported by a range of industry partners which includes our leading ICT enterprises and partners in education and training such as SOLAS, ETBs (Formerly VEC), Leargas, Local Authorities and third level institutions. If you are an employer interested in learning more about the ICT Associate Professional programme and its opportunities, we hold regular information workshops.
Peter Davitt is chief executive office of FIT.