COMPUTER companies will breathe a sigh of relief over the bounce back in the popularity of information technology (IT) courses among Irish students.
They have to rely on huge numbers of non-Irish to fill skills gaps partly because of the dramatic fall-off in demand for computer courses a few years ago.
At present, a fifth of all computer analysts/programmers and over a quarter of all software engineers are non-Irish.
It is hoped that the increase in Irish applications will mean less reliance on overseas professionals to fill key jobs in the sector.
The latest statistics show that first preference applications for IT honours degrees have gone up from 1,835 in 2007 to 2,623 this year.
They now make up 4.2pc of all first-preference applications for honours degree courses in the CAO system.
The increase in applications for ordinary degree/higher certificates was more startling -- first preferences are up 24.7pc this year following a 20pc rise last year. In 2007, there were only 1,854 first preference applicants for these courses but, to date, there are 2,680 and that figure is likely to rise further with late applications and those seeking vacant places on courses that are not filled in the autumn.
While there has been a decline in the manufacturing side of the IT sector in Ireland recently, skills shortages persist in areas related to other aspects of the IT industry, according to the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs.
It says that there is still a shortage of computer systems managers, and IT professionals with business knowledge and managerial skills.
An analysis of CAO applications by Dr Vivienne Patterson from the Higher Education Authority confirms increases in the numbers applying for science honours degree courses and engineering courses.