Companies: software developers hard to find

Nortali värbamisjuhi Helen Piirsalu sõnul ei ole 1990. aastate alguses sündinud jõudnud end tõestada.

PHOTO: Mihkel Maripuu

Estonia is short of skilled computer specialists; reasons listed include IT-students working during studies, and exodus.

Recently, a developer was sought by Bigbank, which proposed that 200 people run for the job. Of these, only 20 responded, with one finally selected.

In reality, software developers are lacking for both abovementioned reasons – plus some other circumstances. 

According to Peeter Normak, director of Tallinn University informatics institute, high level software developers are birthed by practical work, which is most effective in groups. 

In mass studies, it is extremely hard to train good software developers. Hence the contradiction: IT being amongst the most popular fields of study, in universities, teachers often hold lectures to huge auditoriums.

Bigbank CEO Kaido Saar agrees that Estonia runs short of qualified IT-people. «Reasons vary; however, a weighty factor definitely is decline in births during 1990–1995 meaning people who would right now be entering labour market as educated specialists,» says Mr Saar.

To Kaido Saar, Nortal’s recruiting manager Helen Piirsalu agrees. According to her, that generation is still quite young and, therefore, majority of specialists have not had the time to prove themselves.

According to Microsoft’s Baltic region manager Rain Laane, Estonia has few people in it; also, out IT-sector has developed very rapidly. 

«At a certain moment, the IT-sector took off growing real fast; so, in order to stay competitive, we need more specific competencies and world class top specialists,» says Mr Laane.

«At the same time, it is very hard for those from outside of EU to come work in our companies, therefore recruitment of top engineers from abroad is restricted,» he continues. Mr Saar thinks the same. In his opinion, Estonian enterprises are competing for workforce with the entire world i.e. the skills in question are international.

According to Peeter Normak, software developers’ qualification is also weakened by overly heavy workloads of university students, during studies. «Would they work at quarter load, they would do better in their studies,» he claims.

«Regrettably, however, their work load is much bigger, leading to insufficient dedication to studies. A solution would be offering them professional engagement at universities. There being some options for that, currently; for instance, students can be involved in filling innovation units financed by Enterprise Estonia; still, this is not enough,» admits Mr Normak.

Should IT-students concentrate on their studies only, of opt to work part-time – as advised by Mr Normak – they could, after graduation, find employment and additional training in Estonia, at Nortal.

According to Helen Piirsalu, they consider the ability to learn and fitting into company culture as more important than knowledge and experience. 

«Also, to the youth with no experience, we offer our summer university. This will be professional career training, under tutorship by professionals of Estonia’s largest software developer. The summer university offers two courses, a week each; plus opportunities to work with projects for two months. The young people will have a chance to prove that they have what it takes to become valuable developers, testers or analysts,» says Ms Piirsalu.

As yet another example of that, Rain Laane mentions IT Academy, birthed by cooperation of Estonian state, universities and information/communication companies. «IT Academy is into improving the quality of information and communication education; as well as training the workforce needed. Skype, for instance, supports IT Academy by €10,000 a year; many other companies also backing it up,» says Mr Laane.


Jaagup Kippar, lecturer on programming, Tallinn University

Of 80 IT students admitted to Tallinn University, after a couple of years, about twenty will be earning their living by software development; plus another twenty by IT management and administration. As a rule, the rest will make use of what they have learnt in other areas where knowledge in informatics often comes in handy.

The trouble with planning IT studies is that it is hard to predict what kinds of knowledge would be needed, in three-four years. Any employer would be happy if the students would know the frameworks and technology versions used in their agency; however, these are numerous, and it is difficult to choose the subjects while planning several years ahead.

People desire to be confident in their skills and tasks. On the one hand, this is commendable. Even so, this is why they often do jobs far simpler than they have abilities for.

Many good students limit themselves to just creating user accounts, changing passwords, and sending broken machines to be repaired – instead of writing modules for sophisticated software or create smart new services. But once you are lucky to hit a more-or-less secure job – and not overly hard – who wants to change that...

Should there be a serious demand, in the society, for a larger amount of decent software developers, then, the needed support provided, it would be realistic to train a couple of hundred of developers in a couple of months. And a couple of thousands, in a few years.