Drop in tech and engineering applications needs curriculum fix

Mary Cleary, deputy CEO, Irish Computer Society (Image: ICS)

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13 March 2017 | 0

There has been a significant drop in CAO applications for engineering and technology places. There is an overall 7% drop, with a 5% drop in first preferences, despite the growth in the industry and the repeated emphasis on skills demand in the wider media.

However, according to the Irish Computer Society, the figures must be taken in context, and as a gauge of young people’s interest.

“To ensure that this negative trend does not continue, action has to be taken,” said Mary Cleary, deputy CEO, Irish Computer Society. “For us, the most immediate need is for Technology to be supported to the same level as Science, Engineering and Mathematics of the STEM disciplines particularly given Ireland’s dependency on the tech sector for jobs.”

Cleary argues that technology and engineering will only feature highly in first preferences if they get “high-quality exposure” at second level.

“This means taking a proactive approach to the implementation of Computer Science as a Leaving Cert subject while incorporating technology initiatives such as Tech Week, which we run in partnership with Science Foundation Ireland,” said Cleary. “Last year over 100,000 Irish students took part in Tech Week so we know the interest is there if you make technology something tangible, practical and enjoyable for young people.”

Cleary said that currently, computer science graduates have no pathway to become secondary school teachers, and therefore there can be no expectation of growth study of the subjects at third level, and without a place for IT in the National Curriculum for the subjects.

“Thankfully this is something we are working on with the Department of Jobs and Enterprise through the Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition at both EU and national levels,” said Cleary.

“However, the CAO – and Third Level in general – is not the only route into a career in technology. There are plenty of options.”

“We are helping to drive the interest in technology from a very young age, and we continue to support everyone; whether you’re in primary school, secondary school, a college student, a young graduate or an IT professional with 50 years’ experience like the oldest of our members,” said Cleary.

“We see huge interest from those who want to transition into tech careers through programmes like IT Tallaght’s ‘IT Graduate Conversion Programme’. Similarly, we are also supporting those who have taught themselves or evolved into IT roles by supplementing their learning through Continuing Professional Development in much the same way as doctors or lawyers do to keep themselves relevant.”

 

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