Microsoft and FIT (Fastrack-to-IT) today celebrated the conclusion of the Youth2Work programme – an initiative established to help equip young unemployed people with the skills that they need to succeed in the IT sector. The initiative successfully trained 13,500 young people – 3,500 more people than the target of 10,000 during the three year lifetime of the programme.

The impetus to create Youth2Work stemmed from the high youth unemployment rates which existed in this country in 2013. By giving young people technology skills which were in short supply in a number of industries the programme sought to create opportunity, prevent long-term unemployment and bridge a skills gap in the technology sector.

Microsoft invested €3 million in Youth2Work over three years and helped to ensure that the skills and courses were kept up to date and relevant to the ever evolving technology landscape. The success of the programme is demonstrated by the statistics – 42% of Youth2Work graduates are in full-time employment and 25% are in further education.

Cathriona Hallahan, Managing Director, Microsoft Ireland, said: “The Youth2Work programme, delivered in partnership with FIT, has been a huge success. When we worked with FIT to create the programme three years ago youth unemployment was at an all time high at over 30% while at the same time the technology sector was experiencing recruitment challenges. While other industries were feeling the effects of the economic downturn the technology sector was thriving. Quite simply it didn’t make sense to have such a high rate of youth unemployment while also having a wide variety of jobs available. Working with FIT we set out to engage 10,000 young people through the newly formed Youth2Work initiative. Together we designed a range of courses which trained the students with skills specific to the jobs available in the sector from software design to cloud sales, mobility and project management.”

“The programme has resulted in 13,500 young people being given technology skills relevant to industry needs and priorities. Their qualifications have set them up well for employment and further education and they can now play their part within the engine of growth for the economy. Ireland has an opportunity to build its reputation as an Innovation nation and the young people who have qualified through Youth2Work will be at the centre of that.”

Over the three years Microsoft has engaged with the Youth2Work students through the courses, through employee mentorship support and with the ongoing focus of ensuring that they finish their course job ready. Microsoft and FIT believe that the model is one that can be used again in the future as there continues to be a need to provide new and emerging skills into the technology sector.

Hallahan continued: “There are opportunities to change and adapt a model like Youth2Work to ensure it meets the needs of society, the economy and industry. We passionately believe that there are opportunities for more young women to get involved in the tech sector – yet despite all the initiatives trying to tackle this problem we continue to fall short. We are looking at how we can adapt the successful Youth2Work model so that we can more effectively to target women – encouraging them to play a role in creating the future by having a career with technology.”

Peter Davitt, CEO, FIT, reflected today on three years of collaboration with Microsoft on Youth2Work. “Youth2Work was a new departure for us at FIT three years ago. At that time we didn’t have a core programme that was fully targeted on youth so we were delighted when Microsoft came to us with the idea. Three years ago youth unemployment was extremely high at just over 30%. Together with Microsoft, we recognised that at the same time unemployment levels in Ireland were soaring, there was a skills gap in the technology sector that needed to be filled. We knew the courses we delivered had to be at the cutting edge so that they would match to areas with focus for technology companies, including cloud and mobile. It’s fantastic that 42% of graduates are now in full-time employment and 25% are in further education. That’s a real impact and it’s something we are very proud to have been part of,” he said.

Khaya Khumalo, who is graduating this year from a Youth2Work course in ICTAP Software Development reflected on what the programme has meant to him. “Quite simply, Youth2Work has changed my life. Thanks to Microsoft and FIT, I have been able to acquire skills in software development. In addition to my course work I am currently working out an internship with the Irish Computer Society where I’m getting some practical experience with the skills I have acquired. When I set out on this journey with Youth2Work, I wasn’t sure where it would lead. I’m delighted with how it has all worked out and I’m looking forward to seeing what the future holds for me in this exciting sector.”

Also celebrating the success of Youth2Work Ciara Hanamy, a recent graduate of the initiative said: “I studied Business and Management in DIT for four years. When I finished the course I realised I’d a real interest in technology and wanted to explore this as a career option. I met with FIT and began a Youth2Work course as an ICT Associate Professional. Following completion of the course I secured full time employment in the industry.”

More information about Microsoft Ireland is available here: / @MicrosoftIRL and FIT at / @FastrackintoIT.

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