More than three-quarters of Irish tech leaders believe that our schools are failing to equip students with the necessary digital skills at primary and secondary level.

At a time when every business is quintessentially a digital business, leading players in the local tech scene in Ireland have expressed fears that another major skills gap is on the way.

A study by Irish cloud software firm Sidero of 119 IT decision makers across Ireland entitled ‘2021 Insights: The Future of Work is Agile’ found that three-quarters (76pc) of Irish tech leaders believe that our schools are failing to equip students with the necessary digital skills at primary and secondary level.

“It is obvious that a lack of engagement in digital skills education at school and university level is creating a ripple effect”

78pc believe Institutes of Technology adequately teach these digital skills, with only 60pc saying the same for universities.

Cost of the IT skills shortage

The study revealed that the average cost of the IT skills shortage per company in Ireland was €295,489 in 2020, and 72pc of organisations said that the skills gap had negatively impacted their business in some way over the last year

The survey also highlighted a gender gap in Irish businesses – half of IT leaders say their organisation does not have enough female representation in senior management positions, while two thirds believe more could be done to encourage female students to take STEM courses or subjects

The lack of inhouse technical and digital skills has meant that 29pc of companies can’t scale at the pace they want to, 21pc say the gap has halted revenue growth in the business, and 36pc of companies say the shortage of IT skills is slowing their digital transformation

In an effort to bridge the skills gap, 15pc of companies in Ireland have introduced a graduate programme, while 13pc have an apprenticeship programme in place

“It is obvious that a lack of engagement in digital skills education at school and university level is creating a ripple effect,” said Carmel Owens, CEO of Sidero. “ There is a significant amount of work to be done, and we need a collaborative effort from the Government, the education system, and industry to meet Ireland’s IT skills needs.

“It’s imperative that we find better ways to address skills shortages, particularly as our research has revealed the damaging effect they have on revenue, growth and innovation prospects for Irish companies.

“Addressing digital learning at a young age will be a crucial factor in determining the performance of Ireland’s future economy. We would encourage organisations to support their local education providers and play their part in ensuring that students gain the knowledge to succeed.

“Creating vibrant and diverse workforces is key to Ireland’s success and our survey clearly highlights that more needs to be done to encourage more women to enrol in STEM courses so they can advance their careers in this important field.”

Interestingly, 78pc of respondents to the study believe Institutes of Technology adequately teach these digital skills, with only 60pc saying the same for universities.

“While it’s a good start that 15pc of companies in Ireland have introduced a graduate programme and 13pc have an apprenticeship programme in place, more organisations should follow suit as a focused and collective effort is needed to truly bridge the IT skills gap,” said Dr Enda Fallon, head of the Department of Computer and Software Engineering at Athlone Institute of Technology.

It’s also vitally important to address the gender gap and do more to encourage female students in the subjects of STEM. Huge steps have been taken in this area but IT leaders have highlighted a significant disparity in senior positions, and a balanced workforce will be key to organisational success going forward.

“We are encouraged by the recent Government focus on IT skills in Ireland, and particularly with the merge of Athlone and Limerick Institutes of Technology to form the Technological University of the Shannon. This underpins a commitment to embedding the far-reaching and ever-evolving subject of IT in the Irish education system which is vital to ensure Ireland’s place in the digital future.”

Main image at top: Carmel Owens, CEO of Sidero

By John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 9 July 2021

Recommended