The Minister for Education, Michelle McIlveen MLA this morning launched a week-long event aimed at encouraging young people across Northern Ireland into a career in digital technologies. The region has one of the fastest growing tech sectors in the UK, with both home-grown and global digital technology companies now accounting for one in every seven job vacancies.
NI Digital Awareness Week, an initiative by locally based, global smart software provider Civica and partners across the worlds of industry and education, will give 11-18 years olds a chance to try their hand at coding and hear first-hand from experts in the worlds of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Cybersecurity and emerging technologies.
Running from 18-22 October, the event will feature over 20 virtual talks, panel discussions and live demos from organisations including Microsoft, BT, IBM, NI-based software consultancy Instil, Ulster University, Queen’s University Belfast.
The Department of Education and Department for the Economy are jointly funding the event to provide all participating schools with micro:bits to support the teaching of coding.
Speaking at the launch of NI Digital Awareness Week, Minister for Education, Michelle McIlveen MLA said:
“Northern Ireland has such a fast-growing and exciting technology industry and it’s vital that we encourage and nurture digital and STEM skills in our young people for the future.
“I’m pleased to show my support for NI Digital Awareness Week, which is an excellent opportunity for students to get more involved in new technologies. From coding to artificial intelligence, I look forward to seeing the inspirational ideas and innovation which will follow in the time ahead.”
The Economy Minister, Gordon Lyons MLA said:
“Northern Ireland’s digital sector is already recognised as hugely competitive on the global stage and, as set out in the Department for the Economy’s ‘10x Economy’ Vision, continues to hold significant potential to grow further.
“Digital Awareness Week is an excellent opportunity for teachers and pupils to work with businesses to find out about the importance of digital skills, their value in the workplace and the many exciting and different careers in the growing digital sector. It’s important that we aim to increase the number of qualifications undertaken across all levels of education in key areas like computer science and software engineering to keep pace with demand. Events such as these help to raise awareness with our young people and their parents of the growing significance of digital skills.”
Civica Managing Director (Northern Ireland) Mark Owens said:
“The past year has really brought home for each of us how much we’ve come to depend upon digital technologies to live our lives. Northern Ireland’s tech sector is going from strength to strength, but to remain competitive, we need to get more young people excited about a career in digital tech and that’s what NI Digital Awareness Week is all about. Over the course of the week, we hope to inspire as many young people as possible to follow in the footsteps of the innovators who created the digital technologies we now take for granted and which have transformed our lives for the better.”