Naomi Long MP and inspirational business women from some of Northern Ireland's leading employers will today launch an event in Belfast to encourage young women into IT.
IT Girls, an initiative of e-skills UK, will bring together more than 300 young women from schools and colleges across Belfast, to participate in series of employability activities led by business women from the IT sector.
Students will hear from speakers including Gina O'Leary, Area Leader at Allstate, before participating in interactive sessions to learn about personal branding. Students will be shown techniques to enhance their professional presentation skills which they will put to use in a fun session of 'speed networking' with employers representing 13 of Northern Ireland's leading technology companies.
Later in the afternoon, Senitus will lead an interactive robotics challenge, before STEMBUS introduce the group to emerging technologies such as 3D printers and laser technology, and explain how the technologies are used in practice at workplaces across Northern Ireland.
The event, part of e-skills UK's Bring IT On campaign, aims to get young women excited about careers in IT, by showcasing the wealth of opportunities available in the sector.
Gender imbalance within IT employment is widely recognised as a major problem in Northern Ireland and around the world, and e-skills UK is working in partnership with employers to address the issue in the UK.
The need to attract women into IT is particularly acute because Northern Ireland faces strong predicted employment growth in the IT sector, which could be hampered by skills shortages. Research by e-skills UK in 2011 concluded that the growth of the country's IT sector will continue strongly to 2019, with employment in the industry forecast to grow nine times faster than the average employment growth in the country.
Speaking about the IT Girls event, Gina O'Leary, Area Leader at Allstate said:
"A career in IT can lead in many different directions from technical guru to user experience psychologist. An IT career is always evolving and most of all exciting, and it's a privilege to open up this world to young ladies and entice them in to a very fulfilling and dynamic industry."
Carol Govett, Project Manager for e-skills UK said:
"Northern Ireland's IT sector is being touted as a future success story for the nation's economic growth. However, in order to realise this growth we need to focus collective efforts on attracting the 50% of the youth population who are currently under-represented in IT. Girls in IT is one way in which we are working with employers to inspire young women to join this fast-moving and rewarding sector."