Work visas ‘can help solve woes’

Work visas are key to solving our economic crisis, according to a leading IBM executive who reckons that, in five years time, the Irish tech sector could plug the hole in the budget deficit.

Chairman of IT@cork and IBM executive Denis Collins said to fill the skills gap in the technology sector there would need to be a huge increase in the number of visas issued to allow people to come and work here.

“We could need anywhere from 20,000 to 50,000 visas a year for the next three to five years, but equally important is to accelerate more conversion courses for the indigenous population for guys who were engineers and could be project managers, guys who have a bit of programming skill and could leverage for programming jobs and people who have language skills,” he said.

“Then finally more and more [courses] in the primary and secondary schools system so that we can get them ready for the future for these types of jobs.”

A knock-on effect from filling these jobs would be that it would stimulate the economy as a whole, said Mr Collins. There would be an increased spend in all areas of the economy while conversion courses are put in place to train the indigenous population in the skills needed for the next generation of IT jobs.

“If we fill these jobs, we can close the budget gap. You’ll have guys working paying tax, you have new construction starting tohappen, you have aviation picking up. It’s not about fixing the IT industry, per se. Its about leveraging a robust industry harnessing it, to impact positively.”

IT@Cork is already driving to help fill the skills gap in the IT sector. In Munster alone, there are 1,500 to 2,000 unfilled roles in the technology sector. A pilot programme is being run by IT@Cork which will develop links between IT organisations and schools. The aim is to engage young students in IT-based innovation and help organisations make a strategic contribution to the development of the regions in which they operate. The IT@cork European Tech Cluster, will hold its Accelerating the roadmap to success conference on May 29 in the Maryborough Hotel, Cork.

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