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Poll: Shortage of skilled people in Northern Ireland endangers ICT growth

The Belfast Telegraph’s poll partners, the CBI and Momentum, provided separate questions for the LucidTalk survey. Here, they give their views on some of the responses from the public

By Ian Graham

As the representative body for the ICT industry in Northern Ireland, Momentum is delighted to have contributed to the poll commissioned by the Belfast Telegraph.

Naturally, Momentum’s contribution was in the form of questions around the perceived importance of digital technology to the public.

In a snapshot of the ICT industry in NI published by e-skills UK in April 2012, the number of IT and telecoms workplaces is estimated at 1,515, which represents 1.8% of all businesses. These companies employ 16,000 people. In addition, a further 12,000 people work in IT and telecoms occupations in other sectors, bringing the total to 28,000, or 3.6% of the total current NI workforce.

The good news is that demand from the sector for additional employees continues to accelerate. The industry is confident that the 28,000 can increase substantially.

The bad news, however, is that insufficient skilled people are being produced to meet current, never mind projected, demand.

A shortage of skills could seriously impair the ability of ICT to deliver its potential to the growth of the economy. Government has recognised this skills shortage and a number of initiatives have been introduced.

It is very encouraging to see that the population regards ICT technology as important. Over 75% of respondents believe computing technology will impact more on their lives over the next five years, and 52% believe that the ICT sector is either very important or the most important to economic growth.

The ICT sector also topped the poll as the one government should prioritise for education and training. Less encouraging was the low rating a job in the sector received.

It is no surprise that medical doctors received the highest rating, but ICT was rated well below the public sector and legal professions. Over the past number of years, e-skills UK and Momentum, with DEL and Invest NI, have delivered the BringITOn campaign to encourage schoolchildren to pursue a career in ICT.

This campaign has delivered excellent results, with substantial increases in applications to study computing reported. However, we need to do more to promote jobs in ICT to the wider public.

Dr Ian Graham is Momentum CEO

For full statistics analysis visit Lucid talk

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