Mothers urged to steer their children towards IT courses
THE mothers of Ireland hold the key to filling 4,500 job vacancies in the IT sector.
A new report has found that an increase in the number of young people choosing IT courses is needed to solve the recruitment crisis in the sector -- with nobody available to fill jobs paying up to €637 per day.
It also said that three-quarters of secondary-school teachers who do not have above-average IT teaching skills need to be helped.
But the Higher Education Authority chief executive Tom Boland said the "mothers of Ireland" would be a key influence in solving the problem, if they could be convinced to guide their children towards studying IT courses.
Recalling the dot.com bubble of 2000, Mr Boland said: "It really shook confidence in the mothers of Ireland because a lot of people were seriously disappointed. I'm hopeful, looking at current figures for CAO applications, that the tide is beginning to turn."
Mr Boland said the State was currently on track to meet its target of doubling the number of young people choosing third-level IT courses, from 1,000 to 2,000 per year, by 2018.
He was speaking after the launch of the Oireachtas jobs committee's detailed report into how to increase the level of IT skills here. It said there were "lucrative careers" in IT companies which were hungry for young talent.
But the current European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL), which is taught in half of secondary schools, came in for criticism in the report. It said that schools needed to go beyond teaching such "basic functions".
Fine Gael Senator Deirdre Clune said students had "passed out" the ECDL by the time they reached school, while Labour Dublin North West TD John Lyons said there was an "iPhone generation" out there who needed to be catered for by schools.
The report noted evidence from experts that children need to be exposed to computer programming between the ages of 13 and 15. However, the committee said it would be too late if this did not happen until they got to university.
Junior Minister for Education Ciaran Cannon pointed to the voluntary efforts of groups like Coderdojo -- which now teaches computer programming to students in almost 50 locations nationwide -- as an important way forward.
"There is no reason why we can't have one in every single community in this country," he said.
Mr Cannon said that €10m would be spent per year on teacher training for the new Junior Cert syllabus, which will also include new courses on computer programming.
But he cautioned against relying on the State, as he called on industry to help schools in their areas.
"Frankly, the days of throwing money at a problem and hoping it will go away are over," he added.
There are currently 74,000 people working in the information and communications technology sector here, which includes world-leading companies including Google, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft.