it@cork Blog “Today I am brave”

I hope you are all enjoying your summer and managing to get some sunshine somewhere! I am certainly enjoying my new role as chairperson of it@cork and I must thank my predecessor Ronan Murphy for his support and excellent stewardship of the organisation, certainly big boots to fill!

I am not a technologist. I am not an evangelist, a futurist or any of those cool job titles that people have these days. I didn’t study computer science. I cannot code. But I believe in technology because I believe in possibilities. I am curious. I am sometimes cautious. And sometimes I am brave. Technology has changed how I work, how I live and arguably, if I was to think deeply enough about it, who I am.

I believe that technology will solve some of the greatest challenges that our world faces. I also passionately believe in the role that Cork can play if we are brave enough to grab this opportunity with both hands.

To satisfy my curiosity index and to learn more about our members plans for the future, I commissioned a survey of it@cork members. The results certainly give me a huge level of optimism about the growth possible in the technology sector Cork.

86% of Cork based technology companies are planning employment growth in the next 3 years alone, with an astonishing 22% of companies planning in excess of 25% growth. This is astonishing and exciting – look at the possibilities that employment growth at this level brings.

So what are all of these people going to be doing? In terms of investment, the top 3 areas into which companies are planning to invest are Data Analytics, Cyber Security and the Cloud, although notably when we examine the responses from SME’s, AI features as the No 2 investment area with 43% of SME’s planning to invest in AI in the next 3 years which is an exciting indicator of the level of innovation planned in the region among our entrepreneurial community.

But it does leave me with some residual questions (I did say that sometimes I am cautious!). Where are we actually going to find this talent?

82% of companies believe that the current skills shortage is a significant or very significant barrier to job growth. So while there is cause for optimism, we cannot be complacent either.

We must, in my view, continue to focus on the skills agenda continue to invest in, promote and advocate for our very fine third level institutions right here on our doorstep. But we also need to go right back to the school yard and encourage children to pursue technology and the sciences and give them a basic set of scientific and mathematical literacy. We need to think broader too about the adult workforce, linear career paths will soon become obsolete – let’s think seriously about reskilling, upskilling, return to work programmes after extended career absences.

While there are various views on this, I do welcome the inclusion of computer science onto the leaving certificate curriculum – this is an important step. It sets a tone that technology matters. But who is going to teach it and how? It needs to be taught in a way that is engaging, encourages creativity, problem solving and most of all is taught by teachers who are appropriately qualified and trained.

Retaining talent, housing and data privacy were cited as the clear top 3 challenges facing the technology sector in Cork. Notably, almost half of all members cited that housing was a key challenge, ranking as the No 2 issue behind talent. While we absolutely need continued office space, the people who occupy those buildings need somewhere to live too. If we are to continue to attract talent we need to provide a city and county where people can build their lives.

Cork is on the cusp of something incredible.  I can feel it. We should not let this opportunity pass us by. Today I am brave.