Over the past few weeks, thousands of students will have collected the results of exams they took just a few months ago. Whether it’s A-level, GCSE or otherwise, months and years of preparation will have gone into it, with next steps and future career plans now a hot topic in many homes.
Regardless of the outcome, Results Week can be an overwhelming time for students, teachers, parents and guardians. One of the reasons for this, and perhaps a positive reason, is the magnitude of the opportunities that currently exist in Northern Ireland.
We have a mature, world-class education system that offers all levels of qualification in many disciplines. Pathways to the professional world no longer follow the linear process of baccalaureate, university and eventual employment.
Today there is a whole system of diplomas, higher-level apprenticeships and trade academies that complement the traditional course.
It is the result of progress in the way we live and do business, to which we as a region have responded well. Despite the pandemic, Northern Ireland continues to enjoy a period of tech boom as the industry grows in both size and economic contribution, paving the way for the evolution of mobile payments and banking , to name a few.
Fintech, the discipline that improves and automates the delivery of financial services, is key. Worth over £392m annually and directly employing over 7,000 people, it is a growing sector which is expected to create thousands more jobs in the years to come.
For students, fintech is an opportunity to play a role in our economy of tomorrow. A key priority area of the Ministry of Economy’s 10X vision, the industry’s rapid growth has earned us recognition around the world, but many people currently working in fintech may not have experienced its own potential when they were in school.
This is why STEM subjects are essential and courses that inspire innovative thinking are important for local industry. Software development, blockchain, data science and cybersecurity are among the most in-demand disciplines in today’s industry, while problem solving, disruptive thinking, high interpersonal skills and the ability to adaptation are the main soft skills that are beneficial in fintech.
This is what employers in the sector are looking for, and we, as an independent industry association, strive to ensure that there is no shortage of qualified candidates to support future growth. The fintech sector is revolutionizing the way we spend, manage, save and invest our money, but this potential rests with the employees, and we need to encourage more of our young talent to pursue a future in the region.
It’s a sector where curiosity is welcomed, challenge is encouraged and those willing to challenge and disrupt are increasingly sought after for dynamic, high-paying roles.
A range of courses and qualifications provide a direct route into the industry, including at Ulster and Queen’s Universities, our further education colleges and via Department of Economics assured skills academies at local technology companies .
:: Andrew Jenkins is President of the FinTech NI Association