As finance falters in Ireland, Google and Apple help create 4,000 jobs

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Information technology and financial services have long been the backbone of foreign investment in Ireland, creating thousands of jobs.  However, as finance struggles globally, the country’s technology sector is continuing to attract international companies and talent.

Apple, Google, Facebook, HP, IBM, LinkedIn, PayPal and Cisco Systems all announced new hiring sprees in 2012, while DropBox, Aspen, Clearstream and Twitter invested in the country for the first time. Over 4,000 jobs were created in the information and communications technology sector last year, according to IDA Ireland.

Meanwhile, while the Irish government  in 2011 set an ambitious target of creating 10,000 new finance-related jobs over the next five years in Dublin’s International Financial Services Centre, only 500 were created in 2011, according to Finance Dublin. Last year 925 jobs were announced within firms such as like BlackRock, Butterfield Fulcrum, Fidelity and Northern Trust.

“The financial services industry faced significant challenges in 2012,” said Denis Curran, manager of the global institutions group, financial services at IDA Ireland. Information and communications technology “has undoubtedly been more buoyant, but we’re also seeing more IT job creation  in non-pure play technology companies including financial services firms such as Fidelity and Citigroup.”

In its 2013 jobs action plan released last week, the Irish government said that an additional 2,000 ICT graduates will hit the job market this year and that it intends to make Ireland one of the leading countries in Europe for Big Data by growing the sector 40% annually. Financial services didn’t get a mention.

Professor Alan Smeaton from Dublin City University’s School of Computing, said that it took in 200 students last year – the largest intake since before the dotcom bubble – and said that IT is very much the en vogue subject for young people in Ireland.

“We adapt our courses to the skills the tech companies demand – programming languages like Ruby and data analytics are new modules, for example,” he said, “but the biggest thing we look to instill is a sense of entrepreneurial spirit.”

Smeaton said that there’s a 50-50 split between students opting to seek jobs at large technology firms and those targeting smaller companies, but the “vast majority” of graduates look locally for their first jobs. They’ll have some competition, however, since Ireland’s booming IT sector has not gone unnoticed within Europe’s more challenged economies.

“There’s definitely a hub of technology talent in the local population, but demand is so high that we extend the search internationally and Italy, Spain, Greece, Poland and the Czech Republic all provide a good level of talent,” said Andrew Crawford, head of IT recruiters Experis Ireland.

Financial services firms are expanding the range of services carried out in Ireland to include technology, said Curran. Despite the reputational damage to the domestic banking sector, financial services companies are still attractive to tech talent, Crawford said.

“They tend to pay a little more, and it’s more of a fluid market in Dublin. If you work in a banking technology role in the City then it’s more difficult to move into different sectors, whereas IT skills are more valued than financial sector knowledge in Ireland,” he said.

Programme managers in Dublin earn €70-90k, according to recruiters Robert Walters, while .Net/C# developers are paid €47-66k. Don’t expect too much of a pay rise if you’re moving to an IT role in Ireland – one of the selling points is that it’s one of two European countries where the cost of labour has decreased since 2009, according to Eurostat. The other is Greece.

“Ireland has become a lot more competitive than a few years ago, and salary expectations have decreased,” said Curran.