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EY's shift in focus to see recruitment of more graduates with Stem degrees

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Launch: Frank O’Dea

Launch: Frank O’Dea

Launch: Frank O’Dea

Professional services firm EY is planning to radically change the focus of its business on the island of Ireland so that one in five of its staff is technology-focused by 2022.

Changes will include shifting its graduate recruitment away from the established route through business studies degrees into accountancy and audit roles.

Instead, EY is targeting that 25% of graduate hires be drawn from so-called Stem backgrounds - such as science, technology and maths, according to EY's chief technology officer Frank O'Dea.

Last year EY announced it would create 136 jobs in its Belfast office, adding to its current headcount of over 520.

Mr O'Dea spoke as EY launched a new innovation centre in Dublin - dubbed EY wavespace - that aims to bring its technology and business experts together with clients for sessions that will use what the company called "design-thinking methodologies" to work out solutions to client problems.

Sessions will range from one-day immersion workshops to long-term projects, to "pop-up" centres brought directly to clients' locations and regional offices in Belfast, Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford, according to Helena O'Dwyer, head of wavespace at EY Ireland.

The new 650 sq m Irish site is in EY's Irish headquarters on Harcourt Street, Dublin, and is one of a number of such "hubs" around the world.

The Dublin facility is big enough to host client groups of up to 120 people and will have a particular focus on artificial intelligence, robotics, machine learning and data with an eye to automation.

"We're building tech that uses data and machines to automate processes, including routine work tasks a lot of graduates no longer want to do," Mr O'Dea said.

The digitalisation of the economy - including the requirement to audit companies that log massive numbers of daily transactions - mean the same processes are being applied back to EY's own traditional work in audit and accounting, he said.

Unlike the dot-com era when professional services companies KPMG and Arthur Andersen created tech consulting arms later spun out as Bearing Point and Accenture, technology is now pervasive within firms, said Mr O'Dea.

EY has around 3,000 staff on the island of Ireland. It plans to add 600 more this year and to continue recruiting around that level. As well as greater recruitment of technologists, EY is spending $530m globally in training staff - including in emerging technology.

Last year EY announced over 600 jobs, including 363 graduate roles, across its 10 offices in Ireland, which will eventually bring the headcount in EY to just under 3,700.

Around 366 of the roles will be based in the firm's two Dublin offices, with 234 roles spread across its offices in Belfast, Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford, with 136 new roles for Belfast.

Speaking at the time, managing partner Michael Hall said the new roles reflected its commitment to Northern Ireland.

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