Limerick 2030 IT Skills Initiative –  ‘Limerick for IT’ partnership creates 200 jobs since January 2014; Potential for 1,000 jobs in the next 3 years.

  1. Background & Limerick 2030

The Limerick 2030 Plan identified the need for an information technology (IT) skills framework that will enable job creation and leverage the knowledge based economic potential of Limerick, given the dominance of the IT sector in the region. The plan specifically calls for “[a]n employer led sector-specific skills project-linked to Limerick’s growth sectors. This could be piloted in the first year for example in the established sectors of ICT, Food and Drink, and Tourism”.

    2. ‘Limerick for IT’ Partnership

 In January 2014, in response to this key challenge, major industry in the Limerick region, including General Motors, Johnson & Johnson and Kerry Group, together with the University of Limerick, the Limerick Institute of Technology, Limerick City & County Council and IDA Ireland, formed a unique IT skills partnership ‘Limerick for IT’. Its primary focus was to lead an employer-led skills specific project linked to 2030 that would assess future skills needs in order for multinationals to secure further operational mandates and activities, thereby creating a virtuous circle of emerging skills and jobs. Therefore, the key role of the partnership was to build a pipeline of job-ready IT graduates to meet global and national needs.

  1. Linking IT Skills to Jobs

The first task of the group was to identify critical skills that could expand operation mandates. The multinational partners identified Enterprise Solutions Development (which incorporates SAP TERP 10 certification) and Middleware (IBM Systems Integration Bus), as critical skills for emerging corporate opportunities. As a result, bespoke Springboard courses were developed and delivered through the University of Limerick (UL) and the Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT). This has resulted in two major expansions in Limerick with the creation of over 200 jobs since January 2014, which are outlined below.

 

Case Study 1: Johnson & Johnson and SAP

Johnson & Johnson identified SAP software skills as an emerging corporate need and following an application by LIT to Springboard a tailored SAP programme was developed. This resulted in 40+ students graduating in August 2014 with many of these students also gaining SAP TERP10 certification. As a result of this LIT course and the presence of Lero, the software research centre at UL, Johnson & Johnson secured a new corporate mandate to establish a SAP Development Centre in Limerick with 100 jobs to be announced in December 2014. The development centre is located on the UL campus adjacent to Lero.

Case Study 2: General Motors and IBM Middleware

The second programme which was led by General Motors targeted IBM Middleware as a mission critical opportunity. The programme was developed by the University of Limerick in conjunction with General Motors, and was supported by Springboard. General Motors hired the entire class of the course which started in July 2014 (and will run for a full year), and opened operations in Limerick employing 70 people. An interesting aspect of this project is that in order to facilitate this, Limerick City & County Council have co-located General Motors in the Council’s Doordoyle office, which is a unique innovation in the local authority sector.

 

  1. The Skills Opportunity

It is clear from the case studies that this initiative has been radically successful and has delivered skills and jobs, expanded corporate mandates and has begun the transition of Limerick’s economy. The partnership now wishes to scale this initiative and believes it can create 1,000 IT jobs in 3 years based on the model. This will be achieved by expanding the project across the multinational sector and large indigenous organisations in the Limerick region and extending the initiative across new sectors including financial and business services, etc. However, in order to achieve this, constraints identified in the project to date must be addressed.

  1. Scaling Limerick for IT to create 1,000 jobs in 3 years

Given the success to date, the partnership wishes to scale up the IT skill initiative. The group have been consulting and engaging with key local companies on skill shortages/ opportunities for the Limerick region to reach the jobs target, and the following key skills shortages have been identified:

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Figure 1: Potential for 1,000 IT Jobs

 

  1. Tackling Constraints to scale the Jobs Initiative

In order for the group to further drive the ‘Limerick for IT’ project the following challenges were identified:

  • Timing of the calls: Opportunities can occur at any time for industry to create jobs, and Springboard programmes need to facilitate a timely response as calls are often too late. The uncertainty of funding also affects the ability of the HEIs to promote the courses in other Irish regions. If the courses were more flexible it is likely that this would result in a higher standard of graduates on the courses, better retention rates, and overall, a more efficient use of funding.

 

  • Single Year funding: Each year the higher education institutions (HEIs) in Limerick submit proposals for 1 year of funding for a range of programmes, and there is no guarantee that any programme will be funded for more than one year. However, certain programmes require multiannual funding, to remove the uncertainty for companies in relation to the pipeline of graduates.

 

  • Flexible Remuneration: As a result of a recent Higher Education Authority directive, which prohibits any form of remuneration to academics for additional teaching, it will be extremely difficult to motivate academics to engage in Springboard teaching outside normal teaching hours. Staff teaching on Springboard and IT Skills Programmes should receive remuneration recognition for their work if it is in addition to a full academic workload.

 

In order to achieve the target of 1,000 jobs, the partnership requires a model of flexible and multi-annual funding calls, and appropriate recognition for academic remuneration, as a pilot to support the ‘Limerick for IT’ initiative.

 

  1. Recommended Next Steps

The group believes that if the constraints can be addressed then this will facilitate the IT skills initiative with the creation of 1,000 jobs in the Limerick region. The partnership is putting an executive resource in place to support the scaling up of the project and to overcome the challenges outlined by working in conjunction with other departments and agencies.

To further develop the IT pipeline model, 5 to 7 job ready IT post-graduate programmes need to be implemented on a multi-year basis to meet current industry needs. As part of this the group will continue to develop the accommodation provision model, and ensure that small scale start-up and large scale new office solutions are available at attractive rates for high growth potential companies.

      7.1 Action Plan for Jobs 2015

The partnership further recommends that this is an ideal project to be piloted in the Action Plan for Jobs 2015 to address skills shortages in the IT sector, and the group would welcome a discussion with the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in relation to its inclusion in the plan.

The pilot initiative in time will have the capacity to be rolled out across all Irish regions; to encompass additional key growth sectors; and to create a collaborative/open environment that works with employers, the HEIs and Councils to drive regional economic growth.

  1. Conclusion

Overall the partnership wishes to create a technology skills ecosystem in the Limerick region through the creation of a compelling offer for Limerick – a cost effective supply of job ready talent and ready to go accommodation, backed by industry, the HEIs and Limerick City & County Council, with the support of IDA Ireland. The group believes that this is an ideal pilot project for the Action Plan for Jobs 2015 as Limerick has a strong partnership in place to deliver on this.