Northern Ireland Executive to help computing girls reach for stars

Northern Ireland Executive to help computing girls reach for stars

The Minister will present the top 10 'IT Girls' in Northern Ireland with their awards at a ceremony in their honor in Belfast in September. The 10 will be selected on the basis of their results in this year's 'A' Level Computing examination. 


He presented the Awards in their inaugural year in 2001. The 'A' Star Awards are aimed at encouraging more women to take up careers in Information Technology and redress a serious skills shortage in some sections of the industry. 


The Northern Ireland Executive’s decision follows the announcement that Jane Davidson, Welsh Minister for Education and Life Long Learning, will present the Awards to the top female computing students in Wales in Cardiff in September. 


The awards are an initiative by Edinburgh-based Axios Systems Ltd, a world leader in Help Desk and IT Service Management software. They are being run under the auspices of e-competitions, the UK umbrella body for ICT competitions. E-competitions is led by e-skills UK and works closely with the DfES e-Learning Strategy Unit. Its members include the British Computer Society and leading IT companies. 


The top computing student in Northern Ireland will receive a check for £250 and trophy with the top two female computing students going forward to the final to find the top UK female computing student for 2002. Prizes there will include a laptop computer and an all-expenses-paid trip to the USA. 


Ailsa Symeonides, Sales & Marketing Director of Axios Systems, said she was delighted to have the Northern Ireland Executive's support again. "Government backing of the Awards is vital in helping to highlight the lack of women in computing," she commented. 


"IT plays a fundamental and crucial role in businesses - large and small - and contributes to their competitiveness and success. The industry has a growing demand for skilled labor. Encouraging more women to join it will alleviate the skills shortage and bring benefits to businesses in one stroke." 


Gavin Boyd, Chief Executive of Northern Ireland examination awarding body CCEA, commented: "It's great news that, following the success of last year's competition, the 'A' Star awards are back. CCEA is delighted to support this excellent competition designed to attract more women into careers in Information Technology. It's also great news that the Minister of Education, in agreeing to present the awards locally, has once again recognized the significance of IT careers." 


Last year's overall UK winner was Clara Boyd from Portadown College, now studying at Cambridge University. 


Mr Boyd added: "Entries for GCE 'A' level Computing in Northern Ireland continue to grow. However, if Northern Ireland is to create and fill new jobs, particularly in areas that require high levels of IT skills, we must continue to do all we can to encourage more young women into the industry." 


Welsh Minister Jane Davidson said: "It is wonderful to see that young women are doing particularly well in computing and technology. These Awards highlight the wealth of talent we have here in Wales and shows that women can, and do, play an important role in Information Communication Technology (ICT). 


The 'A' Star Awards are supported by all six major examination bodies throughout the UK and the top two students from each in England, Scotland and Wales will also take part in the grand final. This year's competition is being co-sponsored by Accenture, the world's leading management and technology services organization, and Ford Motor Company. 


On reaching the UK final, each of the 12 candidates will take part in a tie-breaker competition, held over the Internet and judged by an independent panel of experts including a representative of the Equal Opportunities Commission.