THERE has been much talk about the Northern Ireland jobs market of late. Last week, the term ‘full employment’ was raised and debated – with many suggesting that whilst we might not quite be at full employment in Northern Ireland, we certainly have some significant skills shortages and some sectors where there are real challenges to recruit.
In the IT sector, there is certainly big demand for skilled people and a lot of opportunity. According to the latest NIJobs Report, there was a surge in demand for IT workers in the first quarter of this year. IT vacancies rose by 37 percent quarter-on-quarter according to the report and represented the most listings in three years. One in 10 of all their listings are IT jobs.
This won’t come as a surprise to anyone who works in Northern Ireland’s burgeoning IT sector. We have some excellent locally-founded companies enjoying real success and significant growth. We also have many inward investors in areas including software development and security. The market for talent is therefore tight, but the pool of talent is growing, and there is good work ongoing to develop the pipeline further.
More and more companies, including ourselves, are taking on IT apprentices. Companies are also running their own skills development programmes - we're holding Novosco Cloud Camp this summer with Ulster University.
One of the challenges is to make sure that we are developing the skills that we will need in the future, as well as the skills that we need today. Cyber security is obviously a big issue and an area where we need more and more talented people in Northern Ireland. But other areas include robotics and the internet of things.
For that reason, part of this year’s cloud camp will take place in Ulster University’s smart environment labs, which include some of the latest smart technologies, as well as a state-of-the-art robot called Sandy. These smart environments include a smart kitchen, smart bedroom and smart living room, used to support investigations into the area of assistive technologies and activity recognition.
In addition, a newly refurbished robotics laboratory is being used to investigate the development of autonomous robotics which could be used within home-based settings. To complement this, a set of 400 sensing nodes is currently available to be deployed in a smart environment covering a footprint of over 6,800 square feet. The university also has a multitude of mobile platforms and a recently installed mobile laboratory.
Developing the skills of the future doesn’t necessarily mean encouraging young people to go to university. Some of those attending Cloud Camp this year, and those who attended in the past two years, may go on to do degrees at university; many of them may not. We would encourage them to do what they think is best to meet their career ambitions, and to always learn and develop throughout their lives – that's something we are very passionate about, and support our team members in.