The Irish Coding Skills Shortage – Whats Being Done

One of the most important traits to emerge over the last decade is how people have become so aware about the importance of technical literacy, in both their personal and professional lives. It is no longer a domain populated exclusively by software engineers and IT technicians, but for the current generation of young professionals, experiencing life through a 6″ x 10″ tablet screen, or a 20 inch monitor is very much part of their lives. With so much of our lives taking place in a digital environment, whether it’s for work or leisure, young Irish people have come to exist in a technological bubble.

Ireland, as a nation whose economic prosperity is now so deeply influenced by the world of technology, have let aspects of technology assimilate itself into our lives as second nature. We no longer leave our houses without our Android tablet or iPhones. We use all manner of Apps for the sake of checking newspaper headlines, sporting fixtures, booking theatre or cinema tickets, checking the weather, any number of resources which previously were solved with a newspaper on our lap and a landline telephone in our hand.

With digital and technological literacy having become such valuable, and necessary, attributes to possess, the educational infrastructure of Ireland has taken note, particularly with a view to improve the technical literacy of people from a younger and younger age. This inevitably opens up a dialogue about when is too young to learn about skills such as programming, and App development, and the influence of the internet on our lives, and also, when is too old?

As mentioned in a previous article in which potential coders were asking themselves if they’re ever ‘too old’ to learn how to code, the answer is purely down to how much an individual wants to learn, and the effort they afford that ambition. If, or perhaps when, programming and software development skills are introduced as a mandatory aspect of the primary school syllabus, while it will be hugely beneficial for the continued growth of the ICT sector, it will mean a lot more competition. For a lot of young professionals who have since left education, it can feel almost feel like young people, in how early they’re starting to acquire these skills, are given an unfair advantage. How programming skills are set to be taught in schools has yet to take shape, but the discussion is an ongoing process, and it’s only a matter of time.

It is part of the curriculum in other European countries and I believe that Irish children are being left at a disadvantage. Parents are screaming for it.
UCC is already piloting its own course, known as MPT Kiddo where children, mostly from sixth class, come into the university to learn about computer programming.Although computer education is extremely limited in Irish schools, Ireland is at the cutting edge of innovation when it comes to teaching coding outside the classroom. 05/02/14

In February 2014, it was very evident that steps were being taken to incorporate programming knowledge into the Junior Certificate syllabus, if not introduced earlier, in a young person’s education. The Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn discussed the importance of a more technology-aware education, with reforms focusing on ‘optional courses in computer programming and digital literacy.’ Evidence for the immediacy of such reforms was made very apparent by the sheer number of software giants and innovative thinkers wanting to be involved in the project’s implementation, with a large group of innovators meeting at Facebook’s EU headquarters in Dublin on the 22nd of February.

At a time when there are currently 5,000 vacancies in IT companies in Ireland, the Irish schools system needs to enshrine ICT skills as a core subject.

The co-founder of the Coder Dojo movement, 19 year old James Whelton illustrated how Ireland, in not addressing the deficiency of technical fluency from a young age, has turned Ireland into ‘a nation of consumers of technology- not creators of technology.’ The last thing Ireland wants is to ignore a well of untapped potential, something that ICT Ireland is very aware of.

Given the breadth and depth of technology companies already established here, Ireland is uniquely placed to become a global technology hub. We must take a leadership position in guiding the future direction of the industry. ICT Ireland and the ISA have developed this strategy to assist all stakeholders connected with the industry to achieve this goal.

The Global Technology Hub

The landscape of technology has changed in Ireland, and it’s very much time for the educational infrastructure, in the implementation of technical learning from a young age, to adapt to that. If you’re curious about learning the valuable skills of writing code, design, and software development, but are worried that this curiosity is coming too late in life, the Code Institute, a new educational model for technical learning, might just be for you.

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