Public, academic and private sector initiative to address the lack of 3,000 IT sector specialists within the Latvian labor market ever year.
The University of Latvia and Riga Technical University in cooperation with the University of Buffalo (USA) created a new bachelor study program in IT excellence, which will be coordinated by RTU Riga Business School.
Over the last decade, IT exports have increased fivefold, and in 2018 alone employment in this area doubled. In the last 10–15 years, several global ICT giants have entered and deepened their presence in Latvia, and many new startups have emerged. ICT-related exports are growing by around 20% per year.
It is evident that the IT industry is generating jobs and demand for skilled people at an increasing pace, where two of the top 10 most in-demand jobs are software engineers and developers and data scientists. Based on that the program will integrate IT competencies with communication, project management, art, law, finance and other skills that will provide students with a foundation for a successful career in the digital age. The studies are conducted in English according to the standards of the world's leading universities, coordinated by RBS.
The studies are led by lecturers with international academic and professional experience, as well as with the support of the state lecturer training program will be launched in the USA. Students with excellent academic achievements or insufficient financial support will be able to apply for scholarships from the biggest local IT sector companies.
Within the first year of the program development around 1,5 million EUR of public and private IT sector funding was allocated. Going further, almost each year the same amount would be allocated towards infrastructure needs, scholarships and the training of lecturers.
Evidence of success
Within the first year 25 applicants that applied in June (when almost all study program applications have closed) were in the top 3% of central exam results. This year already 60 students were enrolled, with almost twice as many applicants in total. Many of the students have started to gain experience not only within the study program but also by occasionally involving within the IT sector companies that support this program.
Potential for learning or transfer
The lack of workforce and especially IT experts is not a country specific but a European level problem. New trends such as machine-to-machine communications, cloud computing, Artificial intelligence and blockchain are opening great new opportunities, and Europe is in danger of missing out if it doesn’t produce enough experts in the field. Despite rapid growth in the ICT sector, creating some 120,000 new jobs a year, Europe could face a shortage of more than 800,000 skilled ICT workers by 2020. We still see big differences in skills levels between EU countries, and different implementation of national skills programs designed to minimize Europe’s digital divide. It is, therefore, the responsibility of each country to create the ground for students to develop their skills and gain international and competitive education that addresses today`s requirements.