Secretary General, Irish Computer Society
Technology is a game changer in 21st-century Ireland. As a country, we must do better in delivering more bright, ambitious computer science graduates who will leverage all the advantages of digital transformation.
Ireland needs a highly skilled population to build resilience and take advantage of innovation and its transformative effects on its citizens.
Digital Transformation has become a commonplace term; it is, however, a real and critical phenomenon. Strong, coordinated population upskilling is essential for people to cope with the impact of technology on their lives and master it to their advantage.
Despite Ireland’s position at the global cutting-edge of IT, there is an imbalance in the innovation and preparedness for the digital transformation of businesses. Contrasting the strength and investment of multinationals with the indigenous SMEs, it is clear that there is an imperative to identify a means to ensure that Irish-owned and managed companies can digitally transform their businesses and compete in an international market.
Computer science and related disciplines have slipped down the list of choices made by Irish school leavers for further and higher education.
Maintaining a strong, competent talent pipeline is essential for this process to play out, with a steady supply of information technology graduates coming into the market from the Irish education system, complemented by workers from abroad.
However, there are worrying trends in the development of this pipeline of high-quality workers in Ireland. Computer science and related disciplines have slipped down the list of choices made by Irish school leavers for further and higher education.
When they do choose to study technology, this cohort has the highest dropout rates of all faculties in the system. Some of the reasons for this are hackneyed — IT being a ‘nerdy,’ ‘male’ subject, depriving its graduates of normal socialisation, as well as the naming and description of courses in colleges and universities being difficult to tease out and link to eventual roles.
Teach what counts
There is also a gap in the education system. Despite impressive efforts to bring forward computer science as an examinable subject in second level schools, there remains a situation where uptake is slow due to a lack of suitably skilled teachers whose expertise is recognised as valid for registration to teach the subject. There is room for an initiative in Ireland to deliver a widespread teacher education module, to speed up the adoption of computer science and ensure that girls’ schools are as keen on teaching the subject as boys’ schools.