We are very pleased to be here to give the members an overview of FIT, Fasttrack to Information Technology and some of the issues we believe merit attention or support in the current economic climate. We recognise that the economy is in a very difficult situation, but at the same time from our perspective there is good news and opportunity that we need to collectively exploit that can make a real difference to our economy in the coming years.
We propose to give members a general overview of Fasttrack to Information Technology, FIT, and some of the issues that we feel need attention. I know some members will be aware of FIT from the past. My colleagues from industry will give real insights from the expectations and demands for skills, where there are employment opportunities within sectors. We have circulated a three part presentation, an executive summary, a detailed report and Powerpoint slides, and I will bring members through it very quickly.
Fasttrack to Information Technology is an industry led initiative that is 12 years in operation. We are a registered charity and not-for-profit organisation. We work in close collaboration with Government Departments, education and training providers, local development organisations and a host of community-based organisations. This initiative is very much industry led. Most of the major technology companies in Ireland, Microsoft, DELL, Symantec, IBM, AOL, Oracle and NTR, among others, are involved and have been involved in the initiative since the outset. What is different about FIT is our focus on the more marginalised and more long-term disadvantaged jobseekers. We are enabling them to engage and acquire skills to compete effectively in the labour market. The message we want to get across today is that while there should be a focus on the needs of people with third level qualifications, such as degrees and PhDs and so, there is also a fundamental need in the economy for smart people with smart skills, with technical competences that are needed by a variety of different companies. In the past 18 months to two years approximately 80% of my time was spent speaking to people in companies about what they are doing, their needs and what is seen as an opportunity. If companies are busy the people in them can only give a certain amount of time but if we are discussing needs and how they can be supported those people have much time and energy to give. In most cases I have to pull away from companies. An observation which arises on numerous occasions is that nobody has asked the people in such companies about their skills needs before.
Many of these companies have real employment opportunities. I visited a company recently in Cork where the people were clear on their need for particular skills. The company has "escalation" technicians, which are the highest level of technician in the organisation, but of the 20 there only one has a degree. The others have come through different paths but have the technical competencies for certain areas.
We see ourselves as a primary skills initiative led by technology companies in Ireland. Since our initiation in 1999 we have trained in excess of 11,000 people, with approximately 8,500 people in jobs. A successful FIT can be attributed to a number of key elements, including an in-depth knowledge of needs and motivation of marginalised job seekers. I do not come from the information technology sector but have worked with the unemployed for the past 30 years. I worked in Ballymun for 18 years and we piloted some initiatives which got some mileage. We ran them in Dublin as a whole within FIT and these initiatives have now expanded across the country. Many of us within FIT have much knowledge on how to engage, motivate and encourage those who are most disadvantaged to access skills and opportunities.
We have some of the strongest knowledge and understanding of skill needs within the economy as we speak to people in companies on a regular basis. We do not take in just IT companies as it has permeated all industry sectors; we deal with companies in logistics, finance and services, as they all have certain needs from a technology perspective. The year before last we developed a curriculum in wind turbine maintenance, which provides significant opportunity in Ireland. The first course will be piloted early next year. We should run ten or 20 courses of that nature, as there are jobs in renewable energy not only in Ireland but in the UK for significant numbers of people.
We have a very keen knowledge of skill needs in detail. There is much reporting and research which gives a general direction - such as pharmaceuticals, information technology or finance - but we provide a much more detailed investigation in that regard. We have a strong ability and relationship in the co-ordination of access to education and training provision. We would work with a number of VECs across the country and with the organisation which has been known as FÁS. We are not training providers and do not wish to duplicate existing training provisions; instead we want to focus those resources on the more marginalised and give to them a curriculum that will enable people leapfrog the skills barrier into jobs.
Unlike other initiatives, FIT stays with individual participants for up to three years. It is not just about people getting on a FIT course and we mentor and support people so they can go beyond training into a job and career. The sad reality is that with the current economic position, there is much long-term unemployment. That is no longer a good measure of disadvantage as long-term unemployment affects so many families. There are now legal secretaries and architects who are long-term unemployed.
The troika and a number of other commentators have in recent months expressed concern about the real possibility of a lost generation unless there is meaningful intervention now. We can see real opportunities to address that issue. There are 437,000 people on the live register now and in September the number of long-term unemployed was in excess of 183,000. Within that number, the Central Statistics Office would describe 99,600 as being the type of disadvantaged persons on which we would focus. This is a very real issue. I and others were around in the last unemployment crisis during the 1980s, so we have some knowledge and insight in responding to the current problems.
At the start of this year the board of FIT carried out an extensive investigation of what we were doing and the priorities and objectives for the future. We set a meaningful target of training 20,000 people for employment by 2020 and are committed to it. As a result of escalation, that target may need to be raised. In collaboration with education and training providers, the Government and community organisations, there is a target to train 100,000 people in the period 2012 - 2015. That is required to bring about an effective response. This will be cost-neutral as we are not looking for additional funding but rather reprioritisation of existing resources for a coherent strategy. We lack a sufficient number of coherent strategies.
Our target is to place 25,000 people into employment during that period. We have investigated where we see those job opportunities, and they take in a combination of skills shortages. Members will have seen reports about foreign direct investment companies indicating immediate shortfalls of approximately 2,500 to 3,000 jobs. Replacement figures must also be addressed every year, with the prospect of economic growth resuming in 2013. We must make people ready now for these changes, developments and opportunities which are on the horizon. We are in economic strife now but as in the past and many times over, this too will change, economies will rebound and growth will resume. We must use this time to be more effective, giving people the right skills for the correct jobs. I contest that we are not doing this sufficiently now. If there are substantial numbers of graduates who cannot get jobs while there are skills shortages in the economy, there is a mismatch. We focus our investigation on this.
We are fully committed to this proposal and believe that building on experience over the past 12 years, we have the know-how, pedagogy and confidence to bring this to fruition and realise the type of results we outline. In general, the overall progression of placement figures for FIT for the past 12 years has been 74% of people into jobs. Taking into account that we are focusing on people who need more skills and training, that is quite a success. Within the FIT portfolio there are 30 curriculums across the board from general IT to advanced levels of game development, cloud computing and so on.
One does not have to be a third level graduate to secure employment in these areas although there are certain skills and competencies that must be gained to be effective. There is a range of skills and opportunities which people, if given the right supports and assessments, can endeavour to progress within.