While 2020 has been a challenging year for all academic Institutions, IT Sligo has continued to strengthen its position as the market leader in online learning. Recently ranked no. 1 for flexible learning students in the Sunday Times Good University Guide, the Institute has recorded the highest student intake in 2020/21, with applications doubled across the 150 online learning programmes.
In a year of rapidly changing work environments, many are now looking to the future and planning ahead for 2021. Few have been unaffected by the changes the global pandemic has brought to the world of work. Across many sectors, future sustainability of jobs is higher up on the agenda. Employers recognize the importance of ensuring workers have the skills to thrive in the digital economy.
Throughout the pandemic, upskilling and training initiatives have been supported by the Government, with a record number of places funded by the Springboard+ programme in 2020. Jean Gilligan, Online and Springboard Coordinator at IT Sligo since 2013, acknowledges that 2020 is like no other year, in terms of the increased allocation of funded places and unprecedented demand. “In 2020, IT Sligo experienced a 40% increase in the number of Springboard places. All the IT Sligo funded programmes are delivered online over 1 academic year making them very accessible. Springboard only fund programmes where there are known skills shortages in the economy, so that reassures students who embark on a programme that there is demand in the marketplace for the skills they are acquiring”
Industry bodies, like Skillnet are continuing to support online learning courses, with funding available to help fill skills shortages, particularly in the small to medium sized enterprise sector. Geraldine Courtenay, Chamber Sligo Skillnet Network Manager has also witnessed an increase in demand “In 2020, 1500 employees from 300 companies took part in training events subsidised by Sligo Chamber Skillnet. Many of these training events took place on online platforms at IT Sligo. We continue to collaborate with Industry and IT Sligo in the development and delivery of timely and relevant training for those in Employment”.
One such course supported by Sligo Chamber Skillnet is the new online ‘Masters in Data Science’. Now in its second year, the course has attracted a lot of interest, as companies rapidly ramp up efforts to maximize their digital business model. The current skills shortage of Data Scientists makes the career choice attractive to Engineers from diverse backgrounds, attracting high salaries across industry.
Current student Ross McMorrow has worked in industry for several years in Engineering Maintenance and Technician roles. “The course is opening up a world of opportunity, particularly with the Industry 4.0 movement.” As part of the course, Ross has mastered skills in Python programming, giving him the ability to extract and manipulate machine data. “I see the practical application of the skills already. Extracting data from multiple sources and using Machine Learning algorithms to predict optimum machine maintenance schedules. Ultimately these skills will help minimize machine downtime and can result in real commercial benefits.”
A recent graduate of the Digital Marketing degree programme, Anne Granahan ran her own business for several years before making the decision to return to IT Sligo in 2017. Over the course of 3 years, Anne built up a set of digital skills that she could see were in high demand, particularly in the small business’ where in-house knowledge didn’t exist and many managers were spending significant budget buying in the expertise.
Having completed a 12-week placement for Claremorris based Electric Skyline, Anne was offered a permanent job as Marketing Manager. “My background as a business owner was valued and when that was coupled with the practical digital marketing skills gained in the areas of graphic design, social media and Google analytics, my employer could see the value in bringing the skills in house”
In January, IT Sligo will be offering a new 13-week Level 6 ‘Certificate in Social Media Marketing’, delivered fully online and with Springboard funded places available. “The course is very practical in nature and is aimed at those who may currently undertake a small amount of social media marketing, but need to gain the skills to be able to build, manage, monitor and report on the success of their social media activity” Aine Doherty, Lecturer in Marketing and Sales.
No one could have predicted how 2020 would pan out but with a flexible teaching model and strong commitment to continue the provision of high quality, accessible higher education to those seeking part-time courses, IT Sligo is looking forward to 2021 and welcoming new cohorts of students to the Institute.
To find out more about courses available for January 2021 start, visit www.itsligo.ie/onlinelearning