Northern Ireland Must Overhaul Education To Keep Pace With Digital World, Warns Business Leader

Northern Ireland “is just too slow and cumbersome in taking decisions” and isn’t ready for a technological revolution in the workplace, a business leader has warned.

Gerry Kindlon, an executive director at hard drive manufacturer Seagate, said he did not believe Northern Ireland was prepared for an explosion in information and computing, and called for educators to provide the necessary skills.

In his first speech as the new President of Londonderry’s Chamber of Commerce, Mr Kindlon said: “I don’t believe that there is sufficient awareness of how work is changing – and therefore far too many employers, employees, teachers, students and school pupils are not sufficiently prepared for the future of work.

“The top jobs most in demand in 2013 didn’t even exist in 2004. We have entered the era of Big Data – the amount of information available will grow tenfold between now and 2020.

“Despite the currently high unemployment rates, the number of digital economy jobs in the European Union is growing by 100,000 per annum. The Republic has 4,500 vacancies.

“We are educating students for jobs that don’t yet exist, using technologies that haven’t been invented to solve problems that we don’t even know about yet.”

The ongoing campaign for the expansion of the University of Ulster’s Magee campus in Derry will also remain at the top of the new president’s agenda.

He added: “We cannot ignore the need for students and pupils to focus much more on the STEM – science, technology, engineering and maths – subjects. These provide the skills for the modern and future workforce. Increasingly, teaching will have to focus on enquiry-based learning.

“In this new environment, we will all need to adjust. Decisions have to be made more quickly – and this is a message to our government ministers.

“Northern Ireland is just too slow and cumbersome in taking decisions. We all need to recognise that the world today – and even more tomorrow – is different from the one we have been used to. It is faster and it operates through different technologies and media – the social networks, through the cloud and at an ever faster speed. If we are to succeed in this modern environment, we have no option but to adjust to it and to welcome it.”