Donegal is unable to meet the demand for ICT and Fintech skills in the coming years and the industry needs the help of the county’s post-primary schools. This was the message delivered to the Principals and Deputy Principals from across Donegal’s twenty-seven post-primary schools at a recent information event in Pramerica organised by the newly formed Donegal ICT and FinTech Working Group under the facilitation of the North West Regional Skills Forum (NWRSF), a Department of Education and Skills initiative to encourage collaboration between industry and local education and training providers, including Donegal Digital.
They heard that following the publication of the report The Skills Needs of the ICT and FinTech Sectors in the North West 2018 in March by the NWRSF, the Donegal ICT and FinTech Working Group has come together as a collaboration between industry and education and training providers in the county to promote studying and working in ICT and FinTech in the county. They aim to work closely with post-primary school to promote a thriving sector and encourage more females into the sector under the banner of ‘One County – One Team, Team Donegal.’ The group, facilitated by the NWRSF, is comprised of representatives from local ICT and FinTech employers including Sita, Pramerica, Optum, Randox and Switch Systems, along with education representatives from Donegal ETB, LYIT and the European Regions Network for the Application of Communications Technology (ERNACT).
Principals heard from group Chair Vinnie Kennedy, Senior Development Manager (Sita) how the ICT and FinTech sectors are among the fastest expanding industries in Ireland which is headquarters for many large technology companies, with 81% of the ICT/FinTech workforce in the North West region based in Donegal. ICT jobs make up 5.4% of total private sector employment in Donegal, the sixth highest for ICT/FinTech jobs in the North West region as a percentage of the total workforce.
Principals heard that the benefits the ICT and FinTech Working Group can bring to schools are exposure to global industries for students, guest speakers from industry visiting schools, Transition Year placements in the ICT/FinTech sector, company visits for schools classes, encouraging the greater take up of STEM subjects, team building and workshops.
In discussing the FinTech sector, Pramerica Ireland’s Director of Financial Services, David Roche, noted that ‘Four years ago if you were to Google ICT and FinTech you would not have got Donegal. Today if you were to Google Donegal and FinTech, you get Donegal straight away. So what we want to try and do is to ensure that you are aware of what this sector means for this region. We are now in a global world so it doesn’t matter whether we are in Letterkenny or Honolulu, we can act in the ICT and FinTech sector … The people that we need on board in order to evolve this journey to the next level are the schools and the education sector. We need to be able to communicate with our students at a level whereby that they know that Donegal, that the North West Region, that Letterkenny, etc. has something very tangible going forward. So it’s important that you’re with us on this journey … The biggest and most significant change in our [FinTech] sector are the new technologies that are coming on board. They are known as the new disruptive technologies. So unless we bring them in, these new technologies, we’ll be bypassed by the rest of Europe and the US.’
They heard about the various education and training opportunities available in the county from Donegal ETB’s Vinny McGroary, Area Training Manager, Further Education and Training (FET) Services and John Andy Bonar, Head of Development at LYIT. Donegal ETB’s courses in this area are employment including a number of new traineeships in automated software testing and cloud platform and infrastructure.
Pauric O Donnell, IT Teacher, St Eunan’s College, Letterkenny spoke about the new Leaving Certificate Computer Science course starting in forty schools in Ireland in September including St Eunan’s College in Letterkenny and the Abbey Vocational School in Donegal Town which has been developed in collaboration with industry.
Donegal ETB’s Vinny McGroary pointed out that, ‘we can create a pathway from post-primary to [further and higher] education and training to high end, high level ICT/FinTech cutting edge jobs without having to leave the county. Not everyone wants to do that but emigration has been a huge scourge on our county – this will actually impact on emigration in a better way in that our kids will not have to leave here to achieve everything that we want them to achieve.’
LYIT’s John Andy Bonar added ‘This is an excellent illustration of the Regional Skills Forum facilitating collaboration between industry and the local education and training providers to promote the sector and region’.
The group will roll out two further events in October in Donegal Town and Letterkenny aimed at further explaining the learning and earning opportunities in the ICT and Fintech sectors in Co. Donegal to parents, post-primary students and guidance counsellors.