IT Valley links firms, schools and local governments

KOŠICE has become a home for a number of branches of top IT companies such as Microsoft, Siemens and Cisco Systems which have opened a number of workplaces in the local area, with further expansion planned. To tap into the local IT potential these companies and others have joined with local and regional governments and universities to create an association called IT Valley. Within the association’s program of activities the IT companies are participating in the development of study programmes at local schools, the Hospodárske Noviny (HN) financial daily wrote.

Košice is home to a number of IT companiesKošice is home to a number of IT companies (Source: SITA)

KOŠICE has become a home for a number of branches of top IT companies such as Microsoft, Siemens and Cisco Systems which have opened a number of workplaces in the local area, with further expansion planned. To tap into the local IT potential these companies and others have joined with local and regional governments and universities to create an association called IT Valley. Within the association’s program of activities the IT companies are participating in the development of study programmes at local schools, the Hospodárske Noviny (HN) financial daily wrote.

IT Valley considers the intensive communication and cooperation between the business sphere, academia and local government to be its most crucial and prominent success during its existence, as before it was founded there were no links between these institutions.

“A huge contribution is development of the basis for educating both university and secondary school youth on the needs of IT businesses,” said Peter Sinčák, the new executive director of IT Valley, on April 20, as quoted by the SITA newswire. “It can be considered a success that Košice universities have begun adapting their study programmes to the needs of IT companies.”

The local companies have already benefited from this cooperation.

“Thanks to IT Valley and the cooperation with the university community, our company managed to enhance the education and training of young IT experts,” said Vladimír Bulla of T-Systems Slovakia, which had pressed for and helped found IT Valley. “Currently, our company is employing about 1,400 young people and their number should increase in the next 18 months to 1,800.”

The labour market for IT sector experts is not saturated yet, Bulla explained to HN. He said the effects of the economic crisis in this sector differ from those in industry and that he does not expect the impacts to be as severe. For now, Bulla said, the crisis has only slowed the growth of wages and restricted benefits in the IT sector. The goal of T-Systems, the biggest IT employer in eastern Slovakia, is to employ a total of about 2,500 people in the future, wrote HN.

Sinčák said that IT Valley intends to support education of students, creating virtual students’ companies in the future. The association also wants to initiate a fund from which it can make awards for the best bachelors' and masters' theses to students from the IT sphere. IT Valley expects to intensify triangular communication between local governments, academia and IT companies with an information-methodology service about subsidy programmes and by managing the active involvement of members in these subsidy programmes, including tasks involving innovations stemming from both basic and applied research.

“We have started developing cooperation in an international project with a similar association in the German city of Karlsruhe and we plan to deepen partnerships also with centres in Brno, the Czech Republic, and Wroclaw, Poland, with which we have already begun contacts, and also with some other centres,” Sinčák said. He said some of the most pressing tasks are the promotion of the association’s activities and making membership more attractive.

IT Valley was founded in mid-2005 and currently it associates 19 legal entities and five sympathetic organisations, SITA wrote. Its members are companies from the IT branch – in addition to T-Systems Slovakia it includes Siemens PSE, Cisco Systems, Microsoft Slovakia, NESS KDC, the city council of Košice and the Košice regional government, the Technical University of Košice and the UPJŠ University in Košice, the Secondary Electro-Technological School and others. The annual budget of IT Valley is around €35,000 but gradually it should grow through participation in various subsidy schemes and projects drawing from EU structural funds.

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