Transforming Ireland’s tech talent pipeline with FIT
In association with FIT
The rapid evolution of Fastrack into Information Technology (FIT) stands as a testament to its mission of promoting greater diversity and inclusion in the tech sector while addressing the pressing need for talent. Peter Davitt, founder of FIT and a key player in its journey, highlights the organisation’s vital position in the tech sector. Davitt reflected on the early days when rolling out the programme, hurlers on the ditch saying, “you won’t get tech companies to put their hands in their pockets for a level six award”.
Davitt explains that FIT, a non-profit organisation in existence for 24 years, has grown into a national effort, partnering with major companies, including household names like IBM, JP Morgan, Fidelity, AWS, Accenture, SAP, Salesforce and Microsoft as well as 22 government departments in the public sector. FIT’s mission has always been to challenge the perception that a career in tech can only be pursued through more traditional full-time degree and post-graduate qualifications.
“We’re not a higher education institute, but rather a further education and training initiative,” says Davitt.
FIT’s groundbreaking apprenticeship programmes were introduced in 2018 and continue to steadily grow in collaboration with Solas, the National Apprenticeship Office and participating Education and Training Boards offering career pathways for those who prefer hands-on learning. Davitt highlights the unique aspect of apprenticeships: “You’re employed from day one in an apprenticeship programme, learning and earning from the beginning,” he says.
The ‘earn while you learn’ approach addresses the pressing need for attracting diverse tech talent benefiting both learners and employers alike.
FIT has already introduced three apprenticeship programmes of two years duration in the discipline areas of computer networking, cybersecurity, and software development, with plans for more in the pipeline including a much in demand data analytics offering. These innovative programmes cater to a broad spectrum of technical and non-technical ICT careers from coding, security, computer networking, project management and beyond. According to Davitt, the intensity of learning, both academic and practical, is “more extensive than in most traditional degrees as the tech apprenticeship programmes all run for twelve months of the calendar year”.
Davitt elaborates on career opportunities post apprenticeship, “if you saw some of the careers of people who have participated in the apprenticeship are now employed in, they have acquired the skills and capacity to work anywhere in the world. They might have done a software development programme, but they are not there in a dark corner coding! They are talking to customers and clients, organising events that are showcasing services and are loving it. It is a far more attractive and varied career path.”
As Ireland’s tech sector continues to expand, so too does the demand for talent. FIT has been at the forefront of addressing this problem, with nearly 800 apprentices sponsored by more than 250 companies. Davitt emphasises that “apprenticeship graduates are far quicker at hitting the ground running and more equipped to solve business problems,” making it a valuable proposition for employers.
Despite FIT’s significant progress, the perception of apprenticeships as sub-optimal remains. FIT, along with State partners under the umbrella of the Generation Apprenticeship initiative, continue to work towards changing these perspectives, encouraging individuals to consider an apprenticeship route as a faster means to a professional career in the tech and related sectors.
FIT’s efforts have transformed tech talent acquisition in Ireland. By offering apprenticeships and promoting diversity and inclusion, FIT provides a bridge to the tech sector for individuals who may not have considered further education options. The organisation’s impact is not limited to young people but extends to all ages and backgrounds, opening opportunities in an industry characterised by high demand for skilled professionals.
FIT’s mission to build a diverse and inclusive talent pool benefits learners and employers and contributes significantly to the growth and success of the tech sector.
“If you’ve got a level of curiosity, interest, and a bit of determination, that’s all you need to commence the apprenticeship journey,” concludes Davitt.
Employers or prospective candidates interested in finding out more information on the programme please visit www.FIT.ie.