A team of government officials and technology executives has proposed a wide-ranging reform of engineering education in Armenia which it says would dramatically expand the already booming domestic information technology (IT) industry.
Members of the joint “working group” presented Prime Minister Karen Karapetian on Monday with a plan of government actions meant to address a shortage of skilled personnel facing homegrown IT firms and Armenian subsidiaries of foreign hi-tech giants.
IT is already the fastest growing sector of Armenia’s economy, having expanded by an average of over 20 percent annually in the past decade. According to government figures, the sector employing some 15,000 people generated in 2015 a combined revenue of $560 million equivalent to over 5 percent of Gross Domestic Product. Officials say it continued growing at a double-digit rate last year.
Industry executives say that the inadequate professional level of many graduates of IT departments of Armenia universities hampers an even faster growth. According to their estimates, there are between 2,000 and 4,000 job vacancies in the sector at present.
“There is strong growth in the tech sector but there is also a lack of human resources,” Matt Bartelsian, the director of the Yerevan-based software development company Volo, told Armenian state television after the meeting with Karapetian.
In a statement on the meeting, Karapetian’s press office said the IT task force wants the government to embark on major education reforms and implement related projects in close collaboration with the private sector. A package of concrete proposals submitted by it says that the reforms, if implemented, will help to create as many as 40,000 new IT jobs in Armenia by 2025.
Speaking at the meeting, Bartelsian said only half of 1,300 IT students currently graduating from Armenian universities each year are qualified enough to work in the sector. He said the annual number of skilled tech engineering graduates can be raised to 5,000.
According to the government statement, Karapetian welcomed the proposed plan, saying that “the government is ready to take necessary steps to train qualified specialists and stimulate the sector.” He encouraged the working group to also propose ways of making the business environment more favorable for IT.
The government already introduced two years ago significant tax breaks for IT startups employing up to 30 people. They can be exempt from profit tax until 2020 and are also eligible for a preferential income tax rate for their employees. Karapetian’s predecessor, Hovik Abrahamian, said in June 2016 that more than 100 IT firms have been set up in Armenia since then.
Karapetian spoke of his “high hopes for your sector” when he met the tech executives and officials in November. He said the sector’s more rapid expansion would help the Armenian economy take a “leap forward.”