Third-level to increase focus on digital media

THOUSANDS of jobs and billions of euro of investment could be generated in the animation, electronic games and other digital media industries in Ireland if specialised courses are offered by third-level colleges, a Government policy body has suggested.

The Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN) and Forfás believe Ireland is well placed to take a large share of the industry, projected to be worth around €1.2 trillion globally in the next three years.

But their report on how the country can best position itself to maximise the benefit says universities and institutes of technology need to offer more industry-specific courses designed to meet requirements of manufacturing and research.

The aim is to take advantage of the massive growth potential of the industry, already estimated to be worth €2 billion here by 2010 from a €1.2bn value two years ago, with the likely emphasis on the mobile and wireless technology and games sectors.

“Like many other industries, it might start off with manufacturing and then lead to more research and development work as the high level skills are then developed,” said Úna Halligan of Hewlett Packard Ireland, chair of the EGFSN sub-committee which oversaw the report.

“These are the kind of industries that young people have a natural interest in at the moment, everything from games consoles to mobile phone technology, so it’s a matter of tapping into that interest with the right courses,” she said.

While third-level colleges are already offering degree and other programmes for jobs in the digital media sector, the expert group believes they need to create more direct links with the industry to give students greater understanding of the practical elements of the work.

Of more than 100 courses in the eight third-level institutions closely examined for the report, almost two-thirds were broad programmes such as computer science or engineering rather than dedicated digital media courses covering areas such as games development, multimedia systems, animation, or film and television.

Although the actual jobs creation potential is not quantified in the report, Ms Halligan believes that it is enormous.

“This is an industry where there is not just the possibility of foreign investment, but also direct investment by Irish companies and for growth in start-up businesses in the colleges,” she said.

The report recommends specialised courses and modules for the wireless and mobile, film and television, and e-learning sectors.

It also says more training in the use of technology is needed in film making, design and other creative courses.

IDA Ireland chief executive Sean Dorgan said the digital media industry was viewed as an area with significant potential for future investment.

“It’s important that we identify the necessary skills sets and talents required for this knowledge-driven industry to fully exploit future opportunities for Ireland,” he said.

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