Northern Ireland

'A year to fill three jobs' says app development firm

smartphone

It has taken a year to fill three skill-based computing jobs, according to a County Down company.

Thousands of people already hold posts in large international companies ranging from software developing, design and testing.

However, smaller indigenous firms say they are struggling to fill posts.

With the growth in smart phones and tablet computers there has been a surge in demand for applications - or apps as they are better known.

While many Northern Ireland and smaller firms are finding success, their demand for skilled workers outstrips supply.

"There's not a feast of quality people out there for the types of roles we've been looking for," said Johnny Kelly from Origin Partners in Holywood.

"It has been that difficult that it has taken us a year just to fill three posts. I think for a business like us to grow and survive we need to be looking outside the realms of Northern Ireland."

Another firm, in the games market, has found a similar problem.

William Barr, from Billy Goat Entertainment in Belfast, said he also struggles to find staff with a particular level of expertise.

"There wouldn't be a terrible amount of people locally that would have the skill set that we would require. In saying that, that's changing all the time particularly with some of the courses from the Art College and we're starting to see some graduates there that we could take on board," said Mr Barr.

So, what can be done?

Proper skills pipeline

"We have an action plan in place to address these particular needs," said Stephen Farry, the Minister for Employment and Learning.

"We've now increased the number of university places in stem subjects like science, technology, engineering and maths by 1,200. Having a proper skills pipeline for the IT sector is a major priority for the department," added Mr Farry.

The latest figures show that more than 8,500 people work in the computing industry in Northern Ireland.