A LEADING IT expert has called for a change to the Leaving Certificate to make it "less specialised" and said students should be taught to problem-solve.
Sean O'Sullivan, managing director of technology firm Avego, was speaking at a meeting of the Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.
Mr O'Sullivan – who featured as a dragon on RTE's 'Dragons Den' – said Ireland's trend for producing talented IT graduates has "changed dramatically".
In the 1980s and 1990s the country had a reputation for producing the best and brightest IT graduates whose "quality was unparalleled".
However, since then the country has slipped, with many of the brightest young people choosing to study law or medicine.
"Our society needs to be producing these people," he said, and added that one talented person in engineering could create 100 jobs.
He believed the Leaving Cert system was unnecessarily specialised and said students needed to have broader training in problem-solving and creativity.
Mr O'Sullivan has founded several technology companies and organisations, including MapInfo,a $200m software and services business headquartered in New York.
He said that a technology visa system could help Ireland become the "Silicon Valley of Europe".
Ireland should operate an "open-door" policy for the most brilliant minds in technology from places like India and Russia, he said.
The entrepreneur asked whether as a society Ireland wanted to be an "origin country", that sends away its brightest, or a "destination country", where the brightest want to come.
"I think we want to be a destination country," he said.
The committee, which was discussing a report into information and communications technology skills and demand, also heard that firms in Ireland had to turn down work due to lack of staff.
An absence of high-quality graduates had also led to Irish companies cannibalising each other for staff, pushing up wages and damaging competitiveness, the committee heard.