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Northern Ireland

Key statistics:

  • there are over 1,000 businesses in the Northern Ireland IT & Telecoms industry – approximately 960 of which are IT companies and 75 Telecoms
  • IT and Telecoms businesses comprise 1.5% of all business in Northern Ireland
  • 74% of firms are software consulting
  • sector contributes 2% to Northern Ireland’s GVA
  • experienced 5 years of growth to 2007
  • 7.3% of jobs in the IT industry are part-time, compared to 34% across all industries in Northern Ireland
  • 13,700 people work in IT & Telecoms, which is 1.8% of the Northern Ireland workforce
  • 53% of IT & Telecoms professionals work in non-ICT sectors, such as the financial services or public sector
  • 28% of IT workforce are female, compared to 52% across all industries in Northern Ireland

The IT and Telecoms workforce in Northern Ireland has grown significantly over the last few years. The biggest expansion was in the software sector which has tripled in size. It is predicted that Northern Ireland will have a fairly stable share of IT employment to 2014.

Employers believe that the labour market is relatively tight particularly for workers above inexperienced graduate level. 63% of workplaces in Northern Ireland employ less than 20 people, whilst the majority of the workforce is employed in internationally owned companies. The availability and quality of the workforce is a key requirement for growth in larger companies.

Northern Ireland has a very low proportion of employers reporting skills gaps in their IT professional workforce (5%). As is the UK, skills gaps are reported in the development and implementation of IT systems and services. One in 10 ICT companies in Northern Ireland reported vacancies. Vacancies are predominately in software development and technical support.

The IT & Telecoms workforce in Northern Ireland is highly qualified: 60% of ICT professionals are qualified to degree level of above, compared to 32% in Northern Ireland and 57% across the UK. It is reported that 36% of IT & Telecoms professionals received job-related education or training in the last 13 weeks, compared to 26% across the UK.

There are numerous further education institutions across Northern Ireland offering ICT courses, but there has been some decline in the number of enrolments. The number of first degree IT graduates from Northern Ireland Universities has also declined from 610 in 2004/05 to 475 in 2007/08. However, IT graduates remain in demand in Northern Ireland with 62% of ICT companies planning to source new recruits from here. The region attracted 3.4% of graduates who entered the UK IT workforce within six months of graduation, even though it is host to only 1.8% of the IT workforce.

Average gross weekly earnings for those working in the Northern Ireland IT & Telecoms sector is £580, compared to £640 across the UK.

In the current economic climate the shortage of business credit and the increased cost of energy and non-fuel commodities are areas of major concern for companies in Northern Ireland. In response, 64% of ICT companies in Northern Ireland are planning to develop new services and 53% are developing new products to overcome the current economic downturn.

Future skills in systems architecture will be in demand. IT professionals working with a combination of business and IT understanding will benefit the most from future developments in the sector. There will be an ongoing demand for technical skills in systems integration, networking, web design, security and IT architecture.

Sources: Northern Ireland IT Snapshot 2009, e-skills UK AACS LMI 2009 and e-skills UK Northern Ireland skills gap analysis report 2005