As would be expected from the number of multinational tech companies who have established operations in Ireland, ICT occupations are in a healthy place in terms of employment growth, but facing skills shortages in specific areas across the industry. ICT skills are in increasing demand across the entire economy, as companies and organisations become increasingly dependent on technology and chase new opportunities. Fastest growing is demand for IT user support technicians, with an annual average rate of growth of 17.4%. Also growing were IT Business Analyst and System Designer roles, in which there exist significant skills shortages.
Figure 1: Data from National Skills Bulletin, 2017. SOLAS Skills and Labour Market Research Unit.
The disparity between demand for ICT skills and their availability is highlighted by over a third of employment permits for workers from outside the European Economic area being issued to workers with advanced ICT skills, as companies expand their search for in demand skills. But with ICT skills in shortage internationally as well as in Ireland, the permits only make a dent in the large demand for suitably skilled workers.
Figure 2: Data from National Skills Bulletin, 2017. SOLAS Skills and Labour Market Research Unit.
Following from the National Skills Bulletin, 2017
Key points for selected IT occupations
- In 2016, there were approximately 67,000 persons employed in the selected IT occupations, representing 3.3% of national employment (Figure 9.3.1)
- Almost four fifths of overall employment was concentrated in three sectors: just over a half in IT (mostly in computer programming and telecommunications), with an additional 15% in industry (mostly in computer, electronic and optical manufacturing) and 10% in financial, insurance and real estate
- Three quarters of total employment was in professional level occupations (of which, two fifths were programmers and software developers); the remainder was at technician level
- Between 2011 and 2016, total employment in IT occupations expanded by 5% on average annually ─ the second strongest average annual rate of growth amongst the 17 occupational groups examined; growth was observed for all occupations, with the strongest rates recorded for IT user support technicians (17.4% on average annually) and IT business analyst and system designers (8.8% on average annually) (Figure 9.3.2)
- Over the same five-year period, a net 14,400 additional jobs were created; the largest employment increases (in absolute terms) were observed for programmers & software developers (6,600) and ICT user support technicians (4,300)
- Between 2015 and 2016, overall employment expanded by 13.9% with an additional 8,200 jobs; the change in employment varied significantly by occupation, from a 134.7% jump observed for web designers and developers to a 19% decrease for IT operations technicians
- The majority of those employed in IT occupations were aged 25-54 years (Figure 9.3.3)
- 92% of employed IT professionals had third level qualifications; the corresponding share was 76% for technicians (Figure 9.3.4)
- Most of those employed in IT occupations were male and worked full-time; web designers and developers and ICT specialist and project managers had the highest share of females at 29% and 25% respectively
- At 42%, employed programmers and software developers had over double the national average share of non-Irish nationals (15.4%); the share of non-Irish IT business analysts & systems designers was even higher at 44%.
- In quarter 4 2016, the overall unemployment rate (15-74 year olds) for IT occupations was well below the national rate (2.9% compared to 6.7%), with both figures decreasing since quarter 4 2015.
Almost a half of those employed in IT occupations were employed outside of the ICT sector, primarily in industry and financial activities. Employment in IT occupations is characterised by low replacement demand (the young age cohort means few are retiring and the occupations have a relatively low number of exits to study and home duties): these occupations also have a higher than average turnover rate, with movement between employers occurring more frequently than for professionals and associate professional occupations in general. While many IT occupations experienced little or no growth in recent years, employment growth was strong for programmers and software developers along with IT user support technicians.
The ICT sector accounted for approximately a quarter of all job announcements made in the media in 2016, with roles including IT security, data analytics, cloud computing, ecommerce (financial transactions/payments), telecommunications and Software as a Servic (SaaS), along with a significant number of roles in IT contact centres. In addition, a number of job announcements in the financial sector were for IT roles such as cyber security and data/business analytics.
While employment expanded by 8,200 for the selected IT occupations over a five-year period, there were over 11,000 recent job hires in 2016, two thirds of which were for professional roles. Those recently hired tended to have third level qualifications (80%) and young (55% were aged less than 35 years).
Over 2,700 employment permits were issued to IT workers from outside the EEA in 2016, accounting for over a third of all new permits issued; of those issued to IT workers, 2,300 were for professionals and the remainder for managers or technicians.
In 2016, there were more than 4,600 third level graduates (comprised of HEA and private/independent third level institutions); of these, more than two thirds were at levels 8-10. In the FET sector, apprenticeships in development include network engineer, software developer and fintech associate professional, all at NFQ level 6. Total ICT apprenticeship enrolment over the coming years is expected to be 280. In April 2017, there were 1,245 job ready job seekers with previous experience in IT professional or managerial roles; of these, a half held at least a degree (NFQ 7). A further 1,000 job seekers had previous experience in IT technician roles, a third of whom held third level qualifications.
Despite significant graduate supply and a number of job ready job seekers with IT skills (many of whom, given the comparatively high turnover estimates, are likely to be only in frictional unemployment), shortages of IT skills continue to exist. IT skills are in demand across all economic sectors. Furthermore, the situation is not unique to Ireland as there is a shortage of IT skills internationally.
Shortages of the following skills have been identified:
- engineers: network (Linux, Open Source), database, QA, automated performance testers, DevOps (developing/testing, process re-engineering and communication skills)
- systems/solutions architects, database architects: (e.g. data centres/data warehousing)
- web design (niche areas only): particularly web related applications focusing on enhancing users’ online experience (UX) and supporting user interaction (UI) with 3-5 years’ experience
- infoSec: (IT security), IoT (internet of things), cyber security analyst, data/information security, network security
- business intelligence: BI solutions, big data analysts (e.g. Hadoop, Cassandra, SQL), ERP (enterprise resource planning) with SAP ▪ IT managers and business analysts (especially systems migration and IT project management e.g. waterfall and agile)
- IT technicians: troubleshooting, tech support with languages, particularly German and database administrators.