The Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN), which is funded by my Department advises the Irish Government on current and future skills needs of the economy. It has a central role in ensuring that labour market needs for skilled workers are anticipated and met. A new report published recently by Forfás and the EGFSN, 'Assessing the Demand for Big Data and Analytics Skills, 2013 – 2020' notes that big data and analytics is a relatively new area of business activity characterised by rapid growth. Globally, there is a reported shortage of data analytics talent particularly individuals with the required 'deep analytical' skills. At present, no one country or region stands out in the provision of data analytics services and there is a significant opportunity for Ireland to gain ground here. The report estimates that Ireland has the potential to create between 12,750 and 21,000 job vacancies by 2020, arising through expansion and replacement demand. The full report, and its recommendations, are available on www.skillsireland.ie.
Since 2011 my Department has introduced two new competitive funding streams at higher education level that address the specific skills needs of industry and supports jobseekers into employment - Springboard and the ICT skills conversion programme. All courses approved for funding under these initiatives are selected by an independent panel with industry and educational expertise having regard to guidance from Forfás and the EGFSN on current and future skills needs of enterprise. One of the key areas for focus for Springboard and the ICT skills conversion programme 2014 is in data analytics.The evaluation framework for Springboard and the ICT skills conversion programme provides for ongoing monitoring and evaluation of outputs. An evaluation report published by the Higher Education Authority showed that, 30% of Springboard participants were back in work within 6 weeks of completing a Springboard course and 40% were back in work within 6 months of completion, while an evaluation of phases 1 and 2 of the ICT skills conversion programme showed that 56% of graduates from the programmes were reported as being in employment or self-employment. The full evaluation reports are published on the HEA's website www.hea.ie.