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There is a demand for Irish ICT graduates – Third level on computing forum press release

Third Level Computing
discussion and co-operation between organisations interested in
computing education, including the third level colleges, industry
bodies, Government agencies, and companies. It was set up by the
National Software Directorate and is supported by the Department of

  1. As
    other parts of the
    economy suffer, the software sector continues to prosper. Demand for
    graduates in computing and related disciplines has kept growing and
    is greater than the supply. So far the shortfall has been made up by
    computing graduates from other countries, with over 50% of new hires
    in software companies coming from abroad. Longer term we will need
    to provide our own, as world-wide demand increases for graduates
    able to design the systems of tomorrow.

  1. The
    shortfall i
    not just in computing graduates. If people generally are to have any
    understanding of the systems they use, any appreciation of new
    possibilities, they will need some grasp of computational thinking.
    Without this, they will at best be superficial users, unable to
    understand the associated costs and dangers, or appreciate the
    possibilities. We need to add ‘computational thinking’ to
    ‘reading, writing and arithmetic’ as another pillar of a
    practical education. By failing to do so we neglect the educational
    implications of a world where almost every aspect of life will
    involve computation based systems.

  1. It’s
    not just Ireland that faces these challenges. President Obama has
    of the failure at second level to distinguish between ‘information
    technology literacy’ and ‘computer science’, and urged to
    computer science as one of the core courses students need to develop
    critical 21st Century skills”.
    (/www.acm.org/public-policy/ACM_CS_ED_Transition_Final.pdf). At
    third level in the UK, Prof. Muffy Calder has pointed out that
    “Computational thinking, a way of solving problems,
    designing systems and understanding human behaviour, drawing on
    concepts of computer science, is having a wide impact across all
    disciplines.” (www.ukcrc.org.uk/rae-2009.pdf).
    The growing appreciation of these issues abroad makes it all the
    more important that we address them effectively here.

  1. In doing so, one
    strength is the co-operation that already exists between the third
    level sector and industry and the significance attached to this by
    the industry. “It’s vital that we support the connection between
    the world of education and the world of business to ensure we
    continue to bring new ideas, new computer science students  and
    expertise that can help drive innovation and entrepreneurship. Our
    support for the Third Level Computing Forum and its activities is
    recognition of the importance of that link.” (Mr. Liam
    Cronin, Microsoft Ireland).

  1. In
    Ireland, t
    level computing education is available in 7 Universities, 14
    Institutes of Technology, in Tipperary Institute, and in a number of
    private colleges. Four year honours degree courses (National
    Framework of Qualifications Level 8) are provided by most of these,
    with two and three year courses at Level 6 and Level 7 available,
    mostly in the Institutes of Technology. All the universities and
    most of the institutes are involved in postgraduate studies and
    research in computing.

  1. Numbers
    studying computing have not recovered from the drop of over 70% in
    applications for computing degrees in the 2001-2003 period,
    following the ‘dot.com’ collapse, though there have been some
    increases in recent years.

    A similar situation exists in other countries.

  1. The
    slowness of the recovery in
    numbers reflects various underlying problems.

    1. Confidence
      lost in the ‘dot-com collapse’ of 2001-2003 has not been
      regained. “There are no jobs in computing”!

      The strong employment opportunities are not understood.

    2. Computing
      does not have a clear identity in the community.
      is little understanding of what it involves, and a tendency to
      confuse it with Electronics, Mathematics, or computer

    3. The
      professional career opportunities and general educational value of
      computing qualifications are not appreciated. There is a fear that
      such qualifications provide only limited career options.

    4. The
      image of the comput
      graduate is of the ‘nerd’ rather than the ‘professional’.

    5. It
      is seen as a predominantly male area of interest.

    6. Ireland
      is one of the few Western European countries in which there
      no study of computing, as distinct from use of computers, at second

  1. The
    resulting difficulties for the colleges include

    1. Empty
      places on virtually all full-time computing courses

    2. Very

      numbers of women on most computing courses.

    3. A
      decline in the Leaving Certificate grades of computing students.

    4. High
      and drop out rates, particularly in first year, where most students
      encounter programming for the first time. Students are ill prepared
      to study computing at third level.

    5. Difficulty
      in recruiting Irish graduates to do research.

  1. As
    a result, t
    numbers graduating in Ireland fall well short of industry’s needs
    and of those of research.

    1. The
      Expert Skills Group predicts a shortfall of 2000-3000 computing
      graduates per annum in the coming years. (ICT Report 2008)

    2. More
      than 50% of graduate hires in software companies in the Dublin area
      are from outside Ireland.

    3. More
      than 50% of postgraduate research positions in the colleges are
      filled by graduates from outside Ireland.

  1. Other
    countries also have computing graduate shortages

    1. The
      USA employment in Information Technology grew by 8.7% in 2007

    2. Western
      Europe economies generally have a significant shortfall

    3. India
      and China have significant shortfalls

  1. This
    shortage of computing graduates has important economic consequences

    1. It
      of the ‘knowledge economy’

    2. It
      hinders e
      use of computing in improving competitiveness.

    3. It
      use of computing in new products and services

    4. It
      limits the development of the software sector, an industry ideal in
      many respects for an economy such as Ireland.

    5. It
      makes Ireland reliant on an uncertain supply of graduates from
      other countries, both for industry and for research.

  1. Continuing
    attempts are being made to address the


    1. All
      the colleges have
      in activities to promote computing, including

      1. School

      2. Special
        courses for second level students

      3. Promotional
        materials, printed, DVD, and WWW based

      4. Open

      5. Appointment
        of a marketing officer for computing

      6. Articles
        and interviews in the media.

    2. Virtually
      all colleges have developed new courses aimed at capturing the
      interest of students in areas such as computer games, forensic
      computing, business computing, multimedia and business computing

    3. All
      the colleges have taken steps to address the p
      of failure and drop-out, in particular by providing additional
      tutor support. Funding has been made available by the HEA to cover
      the associated costs.

    4. The
      state agencies, in particular the Higher Education Authority and
      Enterprise Ireland, and professional bodies and industry bodies,
      including Engineers Ireland and ICT Ireland, have co-operated in
      funding various initiatives and campaigns aimed at increasing take
      up of places in computing courses.

there has been no shortage of effort, innovation and financial
recovery in the numbers remains slow, though there has been some
progress. However, without these efforts, it seems likely that the
situation would have deteriorated further.

  1. It
    is felt that the existing efforts should be continued

  1. In
    addition, the following
    are suggested to help address the underlying issues

    1. That
      the industry seek the co-operation of the media in clarifying the
      job situation and the career prospects of computing graduates, and
      in overcoming the ‘nerd’ image. The colleges can help, but
      their views are at second hand and may be seen as tainted by vested

    2. That
      steps are taken
      provide a better understanding of what computing and computational
      thinking are about, and to distinguish them clearly from hardware
      technologies, mathematics, and computer manufacture. At present it
      is as though the civil engineering involved in a hospital were
      confused with the medical procedures carried out inside it.

    3. That
      the importance of computational thinking as a component in basic
      education be recognised.

    4. That
      the broad educational value of the study of computing be
      to help reduce fears of limited career options. A computing based
      degree can be as broadly educational as a degree in business or
      economics or a modern language. Few disciplines touch on such a
      wide range of topics.

    5. That
      further efforts be made to attract women to study the subject. At
      present they have surrendered it to the men.
      seem to be unaware of the interest, flexibility, and prospects that
      a career in computing can offer. They seem unaware of the potential
      of computing to help people’s lives.

    6. That
      all Teacher Training, whether at Primary or Second level, involve
      the study of Computing, to cover at least basic
      Thinking, Algorithms, Computer Programming, and Computer
      Architecture. At present it is infeasible to introduce computing in
      the second level curriculum due to unavailability of teachers, but
      this should not be allowed continue indefinitely. Teachers should
      be given the opportunity to become aware of the subject, and
      perhaps interested in it.

    7. That
      the colleges
      ways in which they might interact more closely with local schools
      to help build up interest in computing among teachers and pupils.