We need technological talent more than corporate tax breaks…

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By far the most fascinating point in the BBC’s new replacement for Hearts and Minds, The View [catchy title, eh? - Ed] was this sequence in which Bro McFerran Managing, Director of Allstate Northern Ireland, cuts to the chase, pointing out that the campaign for lower corporation tax and long (and thus far rather sterile) dialogue between the Stormont Executive and HM Treasury is somewhat beside the point.

In his view, technology provides a viable route to economic growth in Northern Ireland’s economy. But he also argues that it depends on the local development of talent, rather than tax breaks.

He also, correctly, points out that the Republic’s prosperity took thirty years from reform in the 50s to regeneration in the 80s to reach pay off and suggests that we should not wait so long in Northern Ireland.

Instead of belabouring the politicians for what they are not doing (and in education they are not doing a lot), he makes an appeal over their heads to the primary decision makers in Northern Irish education:

…if I could make a plea in your programme tonight, would the mothers and fathers encourage their kids into technology subjects as opposed to turning out doctors and teachers and all things that we turn out too many of…

Quite.

Adds: This is from another of Northern Ireland’s clutch of high tech CEOs, the extraordinarily successful First Derivatives in Newry, writing in yesterday’s Sunday Indo

We seek people who are intelligent, motivated and prepared to travel. We differentiate ourselves from our competitors by supplying people who combine an understanding of the workings of capital markets with technology expertise.

Natural intelligence is only one part of the equation. We have a rigorous internal training programme to help provide our graduates with the skills they need to work with our customers. Many of the world’s largest technology companies have operations in Ireland and the indigenous software sector is performing well. Yet — like many of my peers — I believe that our education system does not produce enough people with the requisite skills to fill the available jobs.

This demand is being met by recruiting staff from overseas or, in many cases, the position goes unfilled. The cumulative impact of these missed opportunities for Ireland is damaging in the long term. Any perception of a skills shortage will be seized upon by competitors for FDI (foreign direct investment) and potentially undo some of the great work being done by the IDA and Invest NI.

Much of our training programme is designed to make people with non-relevant degrees more technology savvy. This process takes months, but we still have to provide basic technology training to bright people who have accumulated a wealth of often useless knowledge after 20 years of education.

Given the vast opportunity cost, there must surely be room for technology modules at the heart of our education system. Why would a teenager not relish being taught how to develop their own iPhone app?

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  • iluvni

    Hamilton talks all over the businessman, taking in nothing of what he has to say.
    ..and we have 107 more of these windbags.

  • OneNI

    ‘if I could make a plea in your programme tonight, would the mothers and fathers encourage their kids into technology subjects as opposed to turning out doctors and teachers and all things that we turn out too many of…’

    We have too many people studying to be teachers and not enough studying IT – Stormont could directly address this

  • Mick Fealty

    Yes, they could. And the Finance Minister could field that question if he was not at political loggerheads with the Education Minister.

    Iluvni,

    I agree with your first sentiments, and for me what this whole interview demonstrates is the degree to which politicians are in danger of the public just moving on without them.

    But on your second (the one wringing wet with utter contempt) is a contributory reason we don’t get spontaneity in politicians, and why if it hasn’t been rehearsed it does not come up in the conversation.

    If they put one word or one syllable out of place they will be excoriated.

  • andnowwhat

    People are best working in areas that suit their nature. Most of those I worked with in the health service had neither the interest or aptitude for IT above what was needed for the trust’s system.

    We need jobs for the most ordinary of folks and that would mean manufacturing. As well as the above issues of interest and aptitude, most people ( myself included) just don’t have the intelligence needed for IT. People need jobs that they can be proud off. Just think of how people talk about when they worked in the shipyard, the rope works, Derry’s shirt factories or the De Lorean factory. What was more than apparent a couple of weeks ago, in interviews with FG Wilson staff, was the connection they had with the firm. Low paid jobs to zero save for what they do for the unemployment figures as they produce so little expendable income, income that our shops and service sectors need badly.

  • Mick Fealty

    I hear what you say ‘anw’… but you are also slightly in danger of avoiding McFerran’s most salient point… that the pinacle of achievement is Grammar schools, and on to medicine, law, accountancy and teaching.

    The second two have some function for technology firms, but they won’t be key in any decision for a company to settle here and produce some of those higher paid jobs…

    McFerran, as I see it, is making a calculation that messaging parents and seeking to influence the cultural choices of said parents is likely to have more effect than lobbying Stormont…

    It’s a smart move on his part, if only because it may have a secondary influence on the pols themselves to begin to meet some of that shifting demand…

  • Barnshee

    Unfortunately this is a chicken– egg (which come first argument)

    Where are the jobs for e.g. engineers (mechanical chemical construction) ? In my circle of acquaint ants we have seen people on these fields disappear to GB and beyond to secure employment. Those graduating from GB universities in these areas are holiday visitors at best.

    The population in Ireland as a whole is in excess of its optimum level for allocation of economic activity (jobs) and individuals share of GDP. Sustained emigration is the only solution on the horizon at the moment

  • JR

    Mick,
    As an engineer, I happen to know many engineering and IT graduates. It is my impression that most of the top grduates that are produced here already go oversees. Off the top of my head, from my circle of friends from uni there is one in Norway, one in Germany, One in Luxemburg (in IT), Two in Japan, One in Nepal. Of those that remained in Ireland, some went into Law, some into accountancy, some stayed in Uni as accademics, None that I can think of are in Top design or development jobs. There is simply very little that is cutting edge done here.

    As a final point, I went into a recruitment agency in Berlin in Aughust. An engineer of my experiance and qualification is paid three times over there what I would be here(if I wasn’t self employed)

  • GavBelfast

    And Simon Hamilton will be the next Finance Minister?

  • Mick Fealty

    Chicken schmicken.

    The cost of compensating for an education system which is being stifled, not by the professionals but by a particularly stupid and self serving political argument over selection – is getting carried by those few companies we have which can afford the time it takes to tech up their new employees…

    Try a slice of Brian Conlon (see the adds content above for references)..

    We seek people who are intelligent, motivated and prepared to travel. We differentiate ourselves from our competitors by supplying people who combine an understanding of the workings of capital markets with technology expertise.

    Natural intelligence is only one part of the equation. We have a rigorous internal training programme to help provide our graduates with the skills they need to work with our customers. Many of the world’s largest technology companies have operations in Ireland and the indigenous software sector is performing well. Yet — like many of my peers — I believe that our education system does not produce enough people with the requisite skills to fill the available jobs.

    This demand is being met by recruiting staff from overseas or, in many cases, the position goes unfilled. The cumulative impact of these missed opportunities for Ireland is damaging in the long term. Any perception of a skills shortage will be seized upon by competitors for FDI (foreign direct investment) and potentially undo some of the great work being done by the IDA and Invest NI.

    Much of our training programme is designed to make people with non-relevant degrees more technology savvy. This process takes months, but we still have to provide basic technology training to bright people who have accumulated a wealth of often useless knowledge after 20 years of education. Given the vast opportunity cost, there must surely be room for technology modules at the heart of our education system. Why would a teenager not relish being taught how to develop their own iPhone app?

  • andnowwhat

    Mick

    Certainly with law and medicine, they have a social kudos and are a shorthand for success.

    Another issue is that the IT sector is a very, very fluid industry that is more easily able to up sticks and move to the next best place more easily than most.

    We’ve got a fantastic engineering research unit in QUB and I’d love to see that teamed up experience people have gained by working with foreign firms to get some good old manufacturing going. I’m aware of EU limitations on state aided factors etc. but there has to be some way to circumvent them.

    To be succinct, I’m for decent jobs for the thick to get the economy going. The high flyers have plenty of options but it is the lack of industry for the aforementioned that I believe holds an economy back.

  • Mick Fealty

    Yes, they are. But your argument oozes with the discourse of distraction we’ve been treated to by the argument over selection… ‘thick’ people should be educated with the ‘smart’ people…

    That’s not how it gets handled elsewhere… In Denmark Technical Schools are as high tech as the rate payer can afford them to be… they are an investment in everyone’s future…

  • andnowwhat

    Maybe I didn’t explain myself properly Mick. I’m very much against the “every child is a precious gem with the ability to be whatever they want” mentality. I’m all for recognising techs and holding their work in higher regard. I’m also of favour of bringing back the poly for focus on softer vocations, rather than needlessly long and expensive courses in university.

    I’m not very familiar with with the needs of the IT industry but I’d like to know what the minimum would be for someone to get the basic skills and knowledge and if an appropriate course can be designed that requires the least time possible. I’m trying to figure how you get an ordinary kid who doesn’t want to study capable of working in the IT field.

  • jh

    as an engineer who has worked at the higher end of technology, both in Belfast and England, I don’t think we can expect the best of our talent to stay here when the salaries are so much lower here than can be commanded across the water. Even if our salaries did come into line, why would anybody want to call themselves an engineer. It’s not respected as a profession, with the title itself being used by anybody who wants.

  • leftofcentre

    I agree with Bro that NI needs more IT skilled people, but if he is waiting on the executive to do something construction he will be waiting a long time. It seems to be there are several options they can look at:

    Allstate could pay the students fees for anyone studying computer science. In return students would agree to work for All State for a few years after they graduate. Maybe the executive could underwrite the fees in some way to reduce the risk from students who default, do not graduate etc.

    I have worked in IT for over 15 years now. What I know if that a huge part of it is self taught, technologies change so quickly that you are continuously learning new things. I can appreciate that universities may give students a good grounding in the principles of programming etc but really you could teach this to people in less than a year.

    Allstate could just teach the skills themselves. If I was an 18 year old and had a choice of either going to university and coming out with a 20 grand debt after 3 years or joining all state, doing a year of training then getting a 20 grand job I know what I would pick.

    I had a great time at queens, I got free education, a grant that let me drink in the union 3 nights a week and time to lay around and do sod all. I would encourage anyone to go to university for the experience, but would I have paid 20 grand for that experience? I don’t think I would.

    You can test for programming aptitude (google it) All 18 year old’s should be encouraged to take these tests as good programmers are not always your stereotypical geeks.

    IT is great, you will always get well paid work, you get to work at home or a nice comfy office – it sure beats digging a ditch in the rain. Sure not everything wants to sit in front of a screen all day, but NI needs more solicitors and teachers like a hole in the head.

    As other commentators have said we need to break out of the attitude that all grammar school kids are only a success if they do medicine, law etc

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    Do companies not do sandwich courses anymore? Quite a few of my fellow students were doing that back in the 60s. BT were one of the big contributors.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Em, I like law. I chose it because I liked the idea of being a Barrister rather than because I was told to or because I felt that that would make me “a success.”

    I kind of think that the problem with IT industries is that they don’t sell the idea to pupils that well. It just doesn’t seem to have any romance to it from an outside view.

    Why would a parent want to convince their child to sit in front of a computer screen all day? And that is what most parents will think IT involves.

    Who is selling the idea of entering the industry?

  • http://www.wordpress.ianjamesparsley.com IJP

    Mick

    Thanks for the link.

    I saw this segment and thought it was telling, precisely for the reasons you suggest – Bro McFerran was in the real world, telling us what is actually needed; Simon Hamilton is in an unreal world and not only failed to say anything meaningful, but failed even to hear what was actually needed, even though the guy next to him was telling him!

    I also wondered, by the way, why “business organisations” have not made much more use of the likes of Mr McFerran. For all their talk about how Corporation Tax would be a “game changer”, I’ve met very few at the top who think of it as anything other than a bonus. The real issue, they will all tell you, is skills (or lack of them).

    JR

    You also make a highly relevant point – the issue here is not so much that public sector wages are too high (although they probably are), but that private sector wages are too low. If someone in business had clarified that lower Corporation Tax would translate into higher (and more) wages, the public would be more sympathetic.

    I’m reminded of my time as Councillor arguing that shops in Bangor Town Centre should open in the evenings. The most common response was “Ah, but the buses stop at 5.30pm so customers couldn’t get here”. Of course, the buses stop at 5.30pm because the shops aren’t open…

  • leftofcentre

    @Lionel Hutz
    Good for you for getting a job you like. Likewise fair play to any of the bakers, tour guides, nurses etc out there who love their jobs. You only have one life (budhists excluded) so you should do a job you enjoy.

    The point is students should be looking at what jobs are out there before committing to a university course, especially if it is going to cost you a big whack of cash. If there is a sector in NI that is crying out for talent then is seems obvious (if not remiss) to not point them in that direction.

    As for selling IT there is not a teenager in the land that is does not spend half their life playing with their phone, hanging out on facebook, reading slugger playing games etc.

  • jagmaster

    Technical wizzkids moving financial transactions from one computer to the next in the Ponzi stockmarket is one thing. But who’s going to fix your boiler or mend your broken burst pipe if the worst happens?

    The truth is yes of course we need technically minded people but not at the expense of everything else.

  • Old Mortality

    ‘as opposed to turning out doctors and teachers and all things that we turn out too many of…’

    There’s a simple solution which is entirely within the power of government: make teaching and especially doctoring much less financially rewarding.

  • leftofcentre

    @jagmaster
    Did Bro or anyone else state that they want everyone in NI to work in IT? This is not an either or situation.

    The point is that the man is saying he has jobs that he can not fill. The news is filled with stories of people losing their jobs, so the fact that a company says they have well paid jobs that can not be filled seems terrible to me.

    Not to get off the main issue I do agree with you that practical skills do get second class treatment in NI. A trade is seen as only an option if you can’t get into university, this is a terrible viewpoint.

    The guy who serviced my boiler was telling me the average salary for his job is 35k. The weird thing is his company had to stop taking on apprentices as the quality of them was shocking. Everytime he turned around the apprentice was texting on his phone, they would also not listen to the most basic instruction. Now the company hires in people from Eastern Europe who are only to keen to grab these well paid jobs.

    The fact that the NI school system can churn out kids so lacking in basic skills and a non existent work ethic is the topic for another post ;-)

  • Mick Fealty

    Yeah,

    That’s one way OM. Not a great recipe for getting re-elected, and sort contrary to the message from Mr McFerran that making people poorer is not the answer to everything.

    It might, of course, be an answer to a government that struggles to to do anything joined up or in concert across departmental boundaries.

  • Old Mortality

    Mick
    So long as people have a strong financial incentive to enter a ‘caring profession’ where their livelihood is assured to the grave, they’ll be less inclined to assume the risks associated with employment in the private sector. No amount of exhortation in schools is going to dissuade students (much less their parents) from the soft option.

  • DanGrant

    All, just a few quick numbers for you on the present state of play and a high level look at available roles:

    Taken from http://www.nijobs.com there are 3042 jobs listed made up of 1111 IT Roles, 461 Accountancy & Finance, 381 Engineering, 346 Medical, 268 Production, 251 Sales, 196 Customer Service, 155 Banking jobs and multiple other sectors with under 150 jobs available and live on the website.

    On NIjobfinder we have roles within the following 767 IT Jobs, 331 in Accountancy, 124 in Banking, 312 in Engineering, 100 in Construction, 107 in Legal, 178 in Sales as well as more in various other industries (however those are the bigger numbers)

    That’s just two job boards, the other boards represent the same pattern with IT roles outperforming other sectors by 2.5 to 1 – somtimes more. These numbers are the numbers live now (at time of writing).

    Obviously some of these jobs are multiple posts from both agencies and companies, however that happens across all the different industries so can’t be fixed to just IT or Engineering or any of the other sectors.

    I work in Recruitment – we have a lot of IT jobs on we can’t fill, but also, there are a lot of various industry jobs on that we can’t fill. We simply don’t have the talent within Northern Ireland to be able to match the demand.

    You worry about the tradesman leaving, that’s not going happen, these are skills that are taught readily and are available. I worry more about the investment disappearing from NI because we can’t match the the talent requirements. What happens when All State go – we can no longer find the right staff here and up sticks and leave? Or any of the other large IT employers – we’ve had a good last 12 months with Invest NI having some real success in terms of turning around investment opportunities, and there are more coming, but I can see us reaching the stage where we have these firms coming in, and just no available skill talent to give to them. Salaries should then get pushed up due to demand, but so many companies aren’t willing to pay higher money for the right skills.

    We need more IT talent coming through – Java Developers, .NET Developers, Software Testers, Python Developers, PHP Developers, Server Administrators – this is where the world is going in terms of what creates money. Yes Engineering and manufacturing does as well – but those industries are heavily IT reliant as well, we’ve got robots being put into factories – where does that software come from? Not here.

  • JH

    Surprise surprise, local tech employers would rather there wasn’t more competition for technology graduates.

    I’ve been involved in trying to recruit tech people in the north. It’s a chore and very difficult to find the skills. In at least one occasion we’ve hired from outside the region.

    But, as was said already, it’s a chicken/egg situation.

    With the greatest respect to said companies, kids are unlikely to get over excited about studying computing so they can go work for Allstate or First D’s. Attract a few multinationals and that might change.

  • JH

    I should say ‘more’ multinationals as Allstate is one of course…

  • Old Mortality

    Have any of the advocates of low corporation tax asked Brian Conlon why he chooses to base First Derivatives in Newry rather than Dundalk?

  • JH

    Are you being facetious or do you want the real answer?

  • Zig70

    Companies should stop expecting the education system to pander to their niche. Specialist jobs need training, you sometimes need to employ on attitude. It would be lovely to employ someone to slot straight in and even if you get someone with the skills in programming, styles and jargon can differ widely between companies. American companies generally look at the basic numbers before picking a site and corporation tax is a headline number. Of course there are loads of other factors but we are competing and losing against the south even with markedly lower wages. You can’t be complacent and leave easy stones unturned.
    IT jobs vary widely from the programmer to the guy who reboots your computer. None are going to pay a Doctors salary unless you start your own business and get really lucky. Most wouldn’t pay a nurses salary. I definitely won’t be encouraging my kid who can program at 10 to seek a career in it if he has the brains to be a doctor. Put your money where your mouth is Bro but I’d imagine he wouldn’t want to pay to take me from my niche to his. So I’m looking out of engineering before the niche I’m in closes in on me again, unless it has a final salary pension or loads of stock options.

  • ForkHandles

    DanGrant, Just out of interest. what would the average salary be in Belfast for an experienced engineer (15-20 years) looking after the standard Windows Domains, SANs, Citrix, Virtualisation, Exchange, SQL servers, projects etc be?

  • ayeYerMa

    I have an Engineering background with industrial experience in semiconductors/telecomms/software/manufacturing.

    The problem in getting many of the best paid posts in this sector is that they are extremely specialised. Most of the specialisation is learnt on the job and, as anyone who worked in Nortel or FG Wilson can attest to, all it takes is the whim of someone in distant high-level management and your specialisation becomes next to useless (unless you are prepared to relocate half-way around the world). Contrast that to a medical specialist who can get a job in a hospital in almost any city in the world in most esoteric specialisations.

    I therefore think it is is a bit unreasonable for companies to be demanding Universities to be teaching their own particular niche. Out of my 4 year Engineering degree, I’d say that the most valuable material was the basics taught in the first 2.5 years of the course. After that the topics just became too esoteric, and would only have been of use should one have happened to obtain a job in one of numerous niches. One will always require in-job training for any highly technical position.

    I think the traditional University education is not the be-all-and-end-all for such industries, nor should it be the only accepted path of getting onto the ladder. One solution is to focus on apprenticeships and perhaps go further than other countries have done in giving greater aid to companies who wish to train/re-train staff into their own specialisations while on the job.

    I worked abroad for most of my career and from conversing with colleagues from across the world it is clear that there is also much more prestige in countries such as France/Germany/Switzerland/Holland etc. given towards technical and non-University education, including such a non-University based entrance path. In some of these countries a starting salary for a graduate is also equivalent to a retirement salary for an equivalent post in NI! Chicken-and-egg indeed.

  • ayeYerMa

    …just read Zig70′s post and it seems I was reading your mind!!

  • gendjinn

    Zig70 & AYM,

    chip/board engineering has all gone overseas, it’s same in California. People with skills in those fields cannot find a job.

    OTOH when it comes to software developers and supporting technology positions (build engineers, test engineering, qa, etc) we are finding it very, very hard to fill our open headcount in California & especially Dublin. Competition is fierce and as soon as candidates are made an offer their existing managers match and/or exceed the offer to keep them.

    We are opening an office in Belfast this quarter and are recruiting heavily to expand support for the growing European division (I mentioned the marching season to folks in the office and they were astounded that there was a “season for marching?”).

    If Ireland had invested the money in technology & education that it squandered on the farmers we’d be on the pig’s back entirely.

  • Old Mortality

    JH
    If you’re replying to my last post, no, I was not being facetious. What is the real answer?

    ZigZag
    ‘I definitely won’t be encouraging my kid who can program at 10 to seek a career in it if he has the brains to be a doctor’
    Where did you get the idea that doctors have brains? Fortunately, I’ve had little dealings with specialists but I’ve never been impressed with the intellectual capabilities of any GPs I’ve encountered. Becoming a doctor is largely a matter of absorbing and retaining a lot of information, not application of intellectual brilliance.
    Shame on you. I’d be very disappointed if any of my children became doctors.

  • Zig70

    gendjinn, my advice would be to use your managers/seniors as trainers and look for ability and attitude rather than set skills. Invest NI gives a lot of help with training costs, so some element of the pigs back.. We’ve brought on some very good programmers without degrees or previous training. However, you need to give people a chance and it is hard to get rid of the mistakes, need to be ruthless with probation.

    old Mortality – even better, no brains, and still big wallets. I have to say I know some very sharp doctors, who don’t appreciate my references to Cuba and £10/month. They know I’m just jealous.

  • DanGrant

    ForkHandles

    I can’t give you a definitive however 15-20 years Windows Domain experience should land you some where between £40,000 and £60,000 depending on exact experience, specialisation and skill set.

    The top end of that range would be for very specialist storage / sys admin skills – the lower end would be for more generic skills.

    Also salaries will range dependent on the company employing, larger multinationals will be more competitive then smaller one office organisations (In most instances, not all)

    Zig70

    On the whole you are right, Doctors will generally get paid more, as long as there are the jobs for them here, and if they dont want to work here and they want to relocate, they may still get more.

    However good software engineers can earn upwards of £100k in London – the best will bring in £150k, if they go contracting your talking £200-£300 a day here, or from £500 to £900 in London. Take it to the next level and chuck in Solution or Technical Architects, Programme Managers, Specialised BAs, yes not everyone is going get to that point in their careers, but it goes the same for Doctors.

    I couldn’t be a doctor, wouldn’t have the talent for it, I could of been a coder, Doctors, Lawyers – yes great if they have the capability, go for it, push them to it. However if you want to be sure they have a job when they finish, then push them to IT, the need will just continue to grow.

    And with regards to Education shouldn’t pander to our industries? Why not, Education is aimed at ensuring we have the talents to be able to survive and thrive within our enviroment. Why should they not then skill people up to work in areas where there are jobs? That’s the point of it isint it?

  • ForkHandles

    Dan, Thanks for the reply.

  • Old Mortality

    Zig 70
    ‘I have to say I know some very sharp doctors, who don’t appreciate my references to Cuba and £10/month.’

    Is the proposed visit to Cuba by the Stormont health committee making them a bit nervous?
    Just out of interest, do they express even a slight embarrassment at being so well maintained at the taxpayers’ expense?

  • Comrade Stalin

    I also work in software engineering. Bro is right. Corporation tax is not the problem at the moment for hi-tech engineering in Northern Ireland. Attracting qualified staff and keeping them is. And yes, it absolutely is about keeping wages under control. From the point of view of managing the economy, the job absolutely must be to keep salaries competitive, otherwise the work will be lost overseas. This is an appropriate trade off for security.

    Bro is also right that we are simply churning out far too many lawyers, teachers and accountants. I wouldn’t want to interfere with the right of any prospective university attendant to choose what career they want to pursue. But I think they should be informed that the prospects of making it as a barrister, or as a teacher, are extremely slim and are likely to become more so in the short and medium term.

    Yes it absolutely should be the role of our education system, of which the universities are part, to train and prepare people for work. Of course there should be diversity in the degrees offered by universities and I think it would be wrong to turn them all into technical colleges at the beck and call of employers. However they do need to listen to the needs of employers if they want to be assured of getting the business of students who want to make their career here – as well as having a pool of talent from which they can recruit cutting edge researchers.

    In the software engineering field there are a number of things the government and the universities can do. One of them would be to fund researchers and scholars to contribute features to open-source projects. Open source – giving your stuff away for free – is a bit of a strange idea to most people but, surprisingly, it is possible to build a strong business out of it, and build a reputation from it. Open source software is used everywhere and there is no shortage of work needing done, and as such there is no better exposure for a university, a company, or a region, to have its name in lights as contributing a major component to a major open-source product.

    I see some of the comments about technical apprenticeships and I have heard this consistently from tradesmen who have taken an apprentice on. A significant number of apprentices do not have a work or service ethic; they don’t understand the important, but little things, like showing up on time or giving the employer due notice when taking time off. I am not sure what is at the route of this problem or how to correct it, but I certainly think that technical courses or courses with an apprenticeship component need to teach people the value – especially the monetary value – of good, dependable service.

  • BarneyT

    To AndNowWhat:

    Hi sounds like a cliche but its going to be a struggle getting anyone into IT if they are not prepared to study. Whilst IT is a broad church, and covers business touchy-feely aspects right down to hard core chip programming and embedded systems, study will have to be perfromed somewhere, and he will need to continue learning if he wants to progress and remain current in a fast moving industry.

    However, he could start with technical support as a call administrator….but in todays climate there is likely to be a queue of more qualified folks ahead of him. Luck and perhaps getting a start from a relative or friend may be needed. Lets say lady luck is smiling on him and he finds such an opportunity. In time he may get familiar with the types of problems that occur and there is no reason why he cant work towards resolving them. This will allow him to eventually move out of front line and drift into the second and third level support, where you have to investigate, replicate and resolve\escalate the incident. In doing this, he might be able to pick up some very strong IT skills.

    However, there is a very big “But”. I call it the Chaka Khan scenario :-) He has to come to terms with undertaking study, and study comes in many forms. If he can work and study at the same time, it will allow him to see a purpose and relevance to research and learning and this could change his frame of mind.

    A final point I would make is choose an element if IT that yields quicker results. Get him one of the Rasberry Pi devices which is a stripped down computer for £30 or so. It is designed to encourage young folks to get into programming. It will introduce him to a UNIX style operating system and a scripting\programming language called Python. Those two skills are very marketable and if you master one operating system and scripting language, you can easily adapt to another. Good luck.

    Regards
    B

  • sirwiggum

    Most of the smartest IT professionals I know/knew upped sticks and moved from NI.
    Not only for the salary, but because NI is still a bit of a backwards place to be trying to live a normal existence or bringing up a family (as this Saturday will no doubt prove).

    It is the salary that keeps NI competitive. If we demanded London or NY wages, the jobs would just move to London or NY. The fact that we are native English speakers and Belfast has a great broadband infrastructure help.

    Yet the problem in companies that I have worked in is that they can’t get the staff because some companies churn out “point and click”ers and call them IT professionals. It is apparent within 5 minutes of a job interview whether a candidate has the requisite technical skills and interest, or whether they have been pushed into an IT job, almost against their will, because they view it as a well paid secure career path.

    We churn out lawyers and teachers, well paid respectable positions. Fair dos to those who follow that career path. IT is still seen as “playing with computers” or as some Hollywood-style withdrawn geek in his parent’s basement hacking into mainframes. This should change within the next generation.

    My pleas to the parents would be to get your kids fired up about *any* career path, not just hanging round street corners or getting involved in anti-social behaviour. And my plea to the politicians would be to do some actual *political* work, bring stability to NI, knock some heads together, see sense and stop the brain drain of graduates leaving NI for civilised shores!