Belfast Telegraph

Action plan for 20,000 IT jobs focuses on children

Children should be taught computer programming in school from the age of eight, according to a new 'digital action plan' aiming to grow the IT sector by at least 20,000 jobs by 2018.

Northern Ireland: A Global Leader of the Digital Economy has been produced by the trade body Momentum and – despite recent political turbulence – has brought together the First and Deputy First Ministers, and their counterparts in the enterprise, education, employment and learning and culture, arts and leisure departments in agreement.

Another proposal is to match companies with schools in order to heighten their understanding of what is required by the sector and help up-skill both teachers and pupils.

Momentum member firms employ tens of thousands of IT professionals and represent a net benefit of hundreds of millions of pounds annually for the economy.

The organisation wants Northern Ireland to be renowned internationally as a world leader in the provision of digital technologies and services, where global companies can leverage, employ and invest in the brightest talent base available.

Welcoming the new report, which resulted from more than 18 months of consultation and consideration, Momentum chairman Rob McConnell said that Northern Ireland must not miss out by failing to address a skills shortage in IT.

"It is clear that Northern Ireland cannot compete on scale or on cost like other regions but it has shown it can compete on the quality of the labour pool, through technological innovation and commercially attractive service models," he said.

"It is now possible, after a long process, to articulate an integrated, overarching plan towards the sustainability of Northern Ireland as a centre of excellence and a world leading region for digital software and technology provision."

First Minister Peter Robinson said that the aim to create 20,000 jobs in the Northern Ireland IT sector over the next five years is attainable.

"I fully support this ambition and I am confident, with the blend of energy and expertise in the digital sector, government and education that we can achieve that target." he said.

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster added that the sector is "crucial" to our economy.

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