Decline in ICT course applications a cause for concern
The number of students applying for level 6, 7 and level 8 information and communications technology courses at third level has fallen by 11%, significantly higher than the overall 4.2% fall in CAO applications.
Una Fitzpatrick, director, Technology Ireland, the representative group for the ICT sector in Ireland, said that while it was positive that marginally more students had taken Higher Level mathematics and engineering subjects for the Leaving Certificate, the effect was not translating into more students choosing ICT related courses as a first preference.
‘’Whereas the demand for tech talent is a global issue,” said Fitzpatrick, “there is a need in Ireland for an integrated triple play strategy to deliver top talent. The economy needs initiatives for: secondary and higher education, further education and alternative pathways and attracting top talent to Ireland.”
Fitzpatrick called on Education and Skills Minister Richard Bruton to publish the third ICT Skills Action plan as soon as possible so that its initiatives may be implemented.
Highlighting the fact that there are thousands of vacant posts in ICT in Ireland, Fitzpatrick said technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), AI and cloud technologies are allowing Irish businesses to enhance their use of ICT, creating more opportunities and growth, but that a steady supply of ICT workers at levels was required to support this. She also acknowledged that there are multiple routes into the sector, not just college, adding that alternative pathways into the sector such as conversion courses and the new Tech Apprenticeship from FIT are “positive” for the sector.
Engineers Ireland echoed these sentiments even as it was buoyed by the 3% increase in first preference applications for engineering courses.
“Rigorously trained and creative engineers are vital to achieving a knowledge-based, sustainable future for Ireland,” said Damien Owens, registrar, Engineers Ireland. “We are encouraged by the increase in numbers opting to pursue engineering at third level. It is important to retain that student awareness, interest and certainty, and sustain it into the future.”
“Engineering is transforming how we live, work and study. Engineering is a highly diversified and exciting profession with a wide range of specialisms emerging as new technologies, business models and engineering challenges develop. From life-saving biomedical technology to energy-efficient housing, engineers are developing innovative solutions for the benefit of society. Today’s engineering students will have the opportunity to work on technologies that have not yet been invented.”
While encouraging all who received a first preference engineering course to take up the place, Owens also encouraged others who may not have got a first preference course to explore all avenues into engineering.
Engineers Ireland strongly encourages students not offered their preferred engineering course at third level, to consider all routes into engineering, said Owens.
“Ireland’s development as a global innovation leader, with inward investment, export opportunities and sustainable long-term growth, will hinge on the further development of engineering skills in key industrial sectors such as manufacturing and ICT,” said Owens.