We must fill empty college seats to attract clean jobs

There were times when we media types didn’t get out of bed for anything less than 600 jobs, so accustomed were we to the massive job announcements that have seen this city accumulate almost 10,000 jobs in US-owned companies over the past decade or two. So the fact that so many gathered to welcome an announcement of what seems a mere 30 jobs yesterday morning, is a strong indicator of the times in which we live and the new realities that persist around us.

However what makes the Lumension announcement so unusual is that it is probably because of the downturn in the economy that this company is being set up here. Never before have so many highly qualified software engineers been available for work in one large area. The closure of Dell and other IT spinoff companies in the western seaboard this year was a devastating blow to the industry but the closures created a deep pool of talented individuals who will now be recruited to make up the intensive teams that will form the Lumension staff in Galway.

When Lumension’s Galway office is fully staffed and that will be within a month or so, given the expected interest in the jobs (being advertised on page 45 of our paper this week ), it will form more than 10 per cent of the company’s total workforce. And this is expected to grow depending on the success of the initial foray into Ireland.

And while 30 jobs may seem a modest number in terms of staff, it is what this indicates to the rest of that environmentally clean and sustainable industry that is of the most benefit to Galway. There is no doubt that Galway is becoming a centre of excellence in terms of the medicare and software industries, and that is why it is so vitally important that more of those 57,000 students who got their results yesterday will aim for careers in that sector.

A friend of mine who teaches in the software industry tells me that there are hundreds, yes hundreds of expensive seats in IT courses lying empty in our local colleges here in Galway, because of the lack of interest from Leaving Cert students who are attracted to other less challenging areas of academia.

Over the next few years, our Government and the department of Education should be seeking to address this issue, incentivising students to take up the subjects that are the necessary components for successful careers in these industries.

In this case, to win the Lumension plant, Galway beat India and China because of factors such as language, time zone, access to the US, and to a pool of local talent. However, it is vitally important that Ireland keeps topping up this pool of talent so that we continue to give the IDA the academic weapons for the arsenal they need in the battle to win clean jobs for Galway.

It is a testament to the prowess of our local IDA officials and to their persuasive powers that the executives from Lumension were ferried around the country looking at locations in which to base themselves, and yet they still chose Galway. The city and county is a marvellous place to live and its many attributes are well listed. However, only by making ourselves impregnable in the fields of medicare, software and engineering can we ensure that we continue to attract top level companies to this country in an era when financial incentives to overseas companies may not be so readily available.

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