IT College to solve Estonia's shortages of IT specialists

  • 2000-06-08
  • By Kairi Kurm
TALLINN - Government and business have finally found a solution to the lack of IT specialists in Estonia. The first Information Technology College will open its doors in Estonia on Sept. 1.

The college, in the center of Tallinn, will accept 200 students in the first year to two faculties: IT System Development and IT System Administration.

"Although Estonia may have the image of a quickly developing country, the truth is just the opposite," said the Minister of Education Tonis Lukas at the opening of the new college.

It is often said the Estonian IT infrastructure is of a high level. As evidence people cite the Tiger Leap program, the number of Internet connections, mobile phones and PCs per person. However, the reality is somewhat bleaker. Although there is a good amount of low- and mid-range IT competence, the number of high-level IT professionals in Estonia is relatively low.

"The percentage of IT graduates in Estonia is below 2 percent, while in neighboring countries it is between 4 and 5 percent," said Lukas. "We need 500 graduates with this kind of knowledge each year. Then we can speak about Estonia's competitiveness and the desire of foreign businessmen to make their investments in Estonia."

The IT education available at Estonia's universities is under powered and under financed. There are very few teachers and the low salaries which do not motivate talented people to pursue the career in teaching. Also, a education given at existing IT departments does not correspond well enough to the needs of the companies.

Recognizing the problem, the largest Estonian universities, Tallinn Technical University and Tartu University, joined forces with the major IT companies, the Eesti Telekom and the Estonian Government to build a new joint institution of applied higher education, called Estonian IT College.

"We want to give the best IT related knowledge in this region and then expand into the whole Baltic region," said Jaak Anton, CEO of the Estonian Information Technology Foundation (EITF). EITF is an institution mediating the know-how and resources to support the IT college project.

"We want to give this education to people, who can value this tool. We want to give it by installments, hoping that these people with this kind of an education can pay it back easily," said Anton. The annual tuition in the new college is 25,000 kroons ($1,515).

IT College gives a three-year IT education. In order to get the bachelor's, master's or doctorate degree the students have to continue their studies at other universities. Linnar Viik, one of the future teachers in the college, said that many adults are interested in receiving their second education in this college, but EITF is planning to find other alternatives for them like summer courses or supplementary education.

He said also that students applying to IT College do not need preliminary knowledge of computers. "On the other hand there aren't many people, who have never touched the computer at all. The statistics show that 80 percent of the graduates are using Internet, so I assume that they have some knowledge of the computers," said Viik.

Viik, who works as an adviser to the prime minister of Estonia, is planning to lecture on New Media. He said he did not believe Estonian students graduating from the college would go abroad to find a fortune. He hopes that they will stay in Estonia and work for foreign companies through Internet as he does. Unlike most of the traditional teachers, Viik appreciates students working outside school to put their new ideas into practice.