Graduates and young people have been urged to reskill in the digital sector to take advantage of opportunities presented by the pandemic.
Dr Jayne Brady, digital innovation commissioner at Belfast City Council, says people under the age of 25 have borne the brunt of unemployment brought on by the Covid-19 crisis.
With the digital sector continuing to thrive, she believes there are significant opportunities for those who “embrace what this revolution brings”.
She told the PA news agency: “What we’ve seen is how critical both digital and innovation have been through the pandemic. I think the business case for that is really clear.
“What we’ve seen is rapid adoption of digital. Who would have even thought the level of engagement we’re having now? I think that’s a real opportunity for the sector for those who have embraced it.”
We'll reskill them through a 10-week programme in specific areas that we know there's big market and technology needDr Jayne Brady
Through her work with Belfast City Council, Dr Brady has helped develop Digital Futures, a 10-week programme providing people with the tools to work in the sector.
She said: “The biggest issues that our businesses had last year, in a survey for 2019, was getting digital and technology skills.
“We knew when we started in May that actually there was going to be a really significant labour market contraction, obviously as part of the pandemic.
“Those who are most likely to be hit were those under-25s, and particularly those leaving academia and school age, where there wasn’t opportunities for them. Particularly for those who don’t have a technology background as well.”
She continued: “So we liaised with our council partners and came up with a proposition to look at a programme that’s called Digital Futures.
“It’s looking at those coming out of university who didn’t have a digital background and providing a reskilling programme to some key sector areas, such as cloud, cyber and software.
“We’ll reskill them through a 10-week programme in specific areas that we know there’s big market and technology need.”
Funding is provided to those on the programme, in addition to work placements, with a view to securing full-time opportunities in 2021.
Dr Brady added: “We’re making sure that those who don’t have those skills and opportunities are rapidly reskilled, so they can embrace what this revolution brings.
“Belfast and Northern Ireland is a really good place to work in terms of digital.
You look at the calibre of opportunities there are, we're leading the world in many, in terms of cyberDr Jayne Brady
“When I graduated 25 years ago I had to leave Northern Ireland in order to get a job that gave me a level of challenge. Now we have really high quality companies here in Northern Ireland.
“You don’t have to leave to get those jobs. You look at the calibre of opportunities there are, we’re leading the world in many, in terms of cyber.
“Tech Nation did an analysis last year of digital roles across the UK. The analysis showed that Belfast and Northern Ireland have the highest proportion of advertised roles in tech.
“Around 23% of the roles advertised last year, according to their analysis, was in digital roles. The average salary is £40,000.
“Another analysis which was really interesting was that Belfast, alongside London, has the highest ration of living costs to salary.
“So it’s the best place to live and have a good life, alongside London, in terms of the cost benefit between your salary and your cost of living.”