Celtic tiger in need of outside refuel

July 10, 1998

IRELAND is suffering such a skills shortage as the so-called "Celtic Tiger" economy takes off that it could turn to private colleges and United Kingdom universities for help.

A leaked draft report to government from an expert group on future skills needs calls for more student places and improved course completion rates.

The report suggests asking private colleges in Ireland as well as universities in Britain and Northern Ireland to help. It also recommends making more work permits available to increase the immigration of people from East European and Asian countries.

The electronics sector has expanded rapidly in Ireland, but measures introduced last year to raise the output of skilled people have not gone far enough, it says.

The annual average supply of engineering and computer science graduates and technicians is about 5,370 but the report says an extra 2,200 per year are required.

It reveals that non-completion rates on technician-level courses are running at 35 per cent and 20 per cent on degree courses, such as computer science.

The Department of Finance found projections of a high-growth employment scenario difficult to sustain, but industry sources say that they are underestimated.

The suggestion that Irish students be funded in UK universities was a surprise, given that a similar proposal last year did not get very far. Private colleges in Ireland have seized on the recommendation that they should be asked to provide places and have said they are available to do so.

Two separate studies are being undertaken into the completion rates in the universities and institutes of technology, but very little information has been forthcoming from the institutions about their rates.

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