ALMOST 1,000 workers were recruited from abroad last year to fill IT jobs -- some paying salaries of up to €70,000 -- because employers could not find enough suitable candidates here.
The number of workers hired from outside the EU has almost doubled in a year, the Irish Independent has learned.
The figures mean more than a quarter of all new IT jobs are now estimated to go to people recruited from outside the country.
An analysis of Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation figures shows that the number of new employment permits issued to staff to work in the IT industry soared to 932 last year, compared with just 551 in 2010.
And the figures do not take account of staff hired in the European Economic Area, which includes the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, as they are entitled to move freely and do not need permits.
There were more new permits issued to staff to work in IT than in any other sector.
Another 697 new permits were issued for healthcare workers, 374 for workers in the services industry, 219 in catering, 192 in manufacturing and 185 in financial services.
The number of non EU-workers alone who were taken on is likely to represent at least one out of every four job opportunities which arose in the IT sector last year, during which 4,000 new jobs where announced.
The worsening state of the skills shortage has come to light as more than 434,000 people are on the dole, and the Government tries to entice workers to take up technology careers through 'conversion courses'.
Among those hiring overseas were Wipro Technologies, Facebook and Google, while already this year hi-tech giants including Ericsson, IBM, Oracle, Microsoft and Paypal have applied for permits for overseas workers.
The permits are only issued to staff after employers have "made every effort" to recruit an Irish worker or native of the European Economic Area for the post.
Kerry-based software firm Annadale is one of many having difficulties finding suitable candidates to fill vacancies.
It has been forced to train up maths and civil engineering graduates in computer programming to compete with multinationals handpicking the top students.
Business development manager Liz McCarthy said the company had been advertising for three Java developers for two years.
"Innate talent is hard to come by, as well as those who have experience in the industry," she said.
"We have converted some graduates ourselves, but don't have the resources to continue doing that."
She added that although a number of government initiatives were aimed at encouraging workers to enter technology careers, her experience was that the calibre of many IT graduates was not as high as her firm demands.
State agency Forfas warned that continued levels of inward migration were "unsustainable" and would come at a cost to the economy.
It estimated that as many as 55pc of highly skilled graduate positions in the technology sector were filled through inward migration in 2010.
Among the jobs in high demand are software engineers, network specialists, security experts, mobile phone programmers, and staff with fluency in French, German, Spanish, Dutch and Swedish.
The State's efforts to improve the situation have already led to a record number of Leaving Certificate students opting for higher level maths this year following the introduction of bonus points in the subject.