Skills gap forces Limerick technology boss to hire abroad

Nick Rabbitts

Reporter:

Nick Rabbitts

THE founder of a Raheen technology company has revealed how he has had to resort to hiring staff from abroad - because he cannot find suitable staff here.

THE founder of a Raheen technology company has revealed how he has had to resort to hiring staff from abroad - because he cannot find suitable staff here.

Despite the fact 20,000 people remain out of work in Limerick, John Twomey, of software engineering firm Emutex, has had to source seven of the 10 staff he hired in 2012 from Spain, Portugal and Italy.

“There seems to be a genuine disinterest among young people to pursue a career in computing. The skill level required is just not here at present. Technology is everywhere in today’s world, but learning about how these technologies work in a hands-on way is what will get young people excited about computing,” he said.

Mr Twomey believes the low numbers of graduates for positions in computer and software engineering is a legacy of the Celtic Tiger era, when it was easier for youngsters to get work on a building site.

“Building was far more attractive, due to the property development boom, and we are feeling the pinch because of that. For many businesses like my own, this is our largest threat to growth: we cannot get the skills, and it is very disappointing when you pass along dole queues, and realise you have to go abroad to get people,” he said.

There are thousands of job vacancies across the state in computer engineering, Mr Twomey added.

David Jeffreys, of IT service provider Action Point, in Plassey, said his firm faces the same challenges.

Despite the fact the firm is set to grow to 50 staff in Limerick over the next few years, it has had to look to open an office in Dublin “to address our skillset shortage in the Mid-West”.

He believes the ‘dot com’ crash in the early part of the century was one of the factors which saw students opt against computer courses.

“When I started college [UL] back in 1997, there were 240 people taking courses in computer systems. In 2007, that course merged with computer sciences, and I think they were lucky to have 30 students starting on that course,” he said. LIT president Dr Maria Hinfelaar says her college has launched a number of courses in a bid to bridge the skills gap.

Due to the number of graduates, many can command large salaries.

“It seems to be some kind of a problem in the developed world, and particularly in the English speaking world. We have a lot of multi-national companies which desperately need people with those skillsets and qualifications, and they are struggling to fill vacancies,” she said, referring to Microsoft, Intel and Analog Devices.

Emutex has launched a scholarship system in a bid to encourage third level students to consider a career in engineering. More information at www.emutex.com.