How Do We Fix the Coding Skills Shortage?

How Do We Fix the Coding Skills Shortage

 Since the 1980’s the ICT sector has been a strategically important sector to Ireland, both in terms of the numbers of high skilled professionals employed and its significant contribution to export performance.  According to the Irish Government’s ICT Plan, 2014 – 2018, this sector accounts for €70 billion per annum to the economy.  Furthermore, ICT is also widely used across a broad range of sectors in the economy.  t is estimated that upwards of 60% of ICT professionals are employed in the broad ICT sector, while 40% are employed across other sectors of the economy.

Globally, the sector is in the midst of a disruptive growth and innovation phase. These disruptions are having a serious effect in many parts of the world, none more acute than Ireland.  If this challenge can be overcome, then the opportunities are enormous for those countries that respond best in meeting these new skills needs.
We know that the skills demand for ICT talent is a global one. By 2015, it is estimated that there will be a shortage of up to 864,000 ICT professionals across the EU alone.

Ireland is expected to have an average increase in demand for high-level ICT skills of around 5% a year out to 2018 with the employment of ICT professionals anticipated to rise to just over 91,000. We therefore have a sharp issue to deal with over the coming years.

The development of the new ICT Skills Action Plan by the Irish Government examines the “potential demand for high–level ICT skills at National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) Levels 8 and above over the period 2013 to 2018 and at progression levels NFQ 6/7, arising both within the broad ICT sector and across other sectors of the economy.
And here is the problem – there is currently no certification available in the software development sector that is meeting the demands of the employers.  While the NFQ does a fine job in regulating and certifying some sectors (primarily where the sector is mature and stable), there is major issue when it comes to the faster moving disciplines.  Software development is one such area.  How can a national service (read civil service and therefore slow moving!) hope to keep up with the rate of change that happens in the IT sector?  How can NFQ certify a course or colleges in, for example, backbone.js (which is a JavaScript variant and MVC framework) when the language is still immature and might not be fully mature?

However, saying that, the government report mentioned above, indicates a continuing strong demand for high-level ICT skills with 44,500 job openings forecast to arise over the period to 2018 from both expansion and replacement demand. One of the recommendations to come out of the report is to increase the output of NFQ based students.
I would argue that the government is starting from the wrong place.  tey should ignore NFQ, work with industry and ask the very organisations who hiring coders what they need.

I suspect that what they will find is that these same employers do not need university graduates, with or without Level 8, 9 or 10.

What employers need right now is people who can apply themselves to software development immediately.
Typically, employers will take a graduate and re-train them.  Why is this?  Why are we not producing graduates who are skilled and prepared enough to get to work straight away?  Education is going through a major time of disruption and coding bootcamps are just one way that employers can get access to students who are skilled enough be put to work immediately.  Let’s open our eyes to possible new ways of approaching this challenge.

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