N Ireland voices 'come home' plea

Bill Goodwin

Employers are urging thousands of IT workers who left Northern Ireland for jobs in the US and Europe to come back home to...

Bill Goodwin

Employers are urging thousands of IT workers who left Northern Ireland for jobs in the US and Europe to come back home to work in the province's booming high-tech sector.

They are backing a government-supported campaign to persuade IT workers that Northern Ireland can offer good career choices and an unrivaled quality of life

The initiative aims to ensure that high-tech companies in the province do not face the recruitment difficulties that have plagued companies in the rest of the UK.

"In recent years a significant number of information communication and technology and electronics graduates and technicians have left these shores to further their careers. These are the type of people we need to attract back," said enterprise minister Sean Farren.

For 20 years over half of Northern Ireland's IT graduates have left the province to avoid the troubles or to find better jobs elsewhere.

But the peace process has sparked a series of inward investments over the past two years which are creating new opportunities for IT professionals.

The IT and communications sector now employs more than 5,000 people and this will grow to 6,500 by 2005, according to predictions by the Software Industry Federation (SIF).

Nortel, Eircom, Fujitsu and Raytheon are among the companies taking on new staff. Halifax and the US company Allstate Insurance have recently set up software development teams in the province.

"People have wanted to stay in the past but they did not see career opportunities," said Billy Mclean, chief executive of the SIF. "The message now is that there are well-paid jobs in multinational companies and a style of life that's unbeatable."

Tim Shute, software engineering manager with Nisoft, recently left London to work in Belfast. He says his only regret is that it's difficult to find sushi on the menu in Belfast restaurants.

"My life is much more relaxing. It's a better quality of life. I have two-and-a-half hours extra free time a day because I don't have to commute. I have time to spend with my daughter and the dog when I come home. And the beach is only 10 minutes drive away," he said.

The £150,000 campaign features a Web site, that will advertise jobs available in the province and give advice on housing. It will also promote the quality of life in Northern Ireland. There are plans for a high-tech party and advertising at airports over Christmas to entice workers to stay permanently.

Read more on IT jobs and recruitment