Ireland must improve the quality and quantity of its third-level computing and engineering graduates, according to a new report by Forfás.

The Government's advisory body on trade, science, technology and innovation says changes must be made if the country is to meet demand for skills in this area between now and 2018.

The report also predicts that more than 44,000 job openings in the Information and Communication Technology sector could arise over the next six years in Ireland.

Carried out as part of the Government's Action Plan for Jobs, the report aims to forecast demand for high-level ICT skills between now and 2018. 

It found that there were more than 68,000 professionals working in the sector last year.

The agency forecasts that demand for these skills will rise 5% each year, bringing employment in the area to 91,000 in six years' time.

In total, it predicts over 44,000 job openings will arise over the period due to new positions being created and turnover in existing roles.

However, in order to meet demand, the report warns all potential policy measures will have to be utilised.

These include education, training, reskilling, continuing professional development and the attraction of international talent into Ireland.

It recommends a range of initiatives, including measures to boost the quantity and quality of those with ICT skills.

It also suggests steps be taken to attract more talent, especially women, into ICT careers and to promote Ireland abroad as a centre of global ICT talent.

Forfás Chief Executive Martin Shanahan says more women need to be encouraged to consider careers in the ICT sector.

The policy advisory board says demand from both multinationals and indigenous Irish companies for graduates will continue to grow.

Mr Shanahan says it is important that the focus on science, engineering and maths continues in mainstream education.

He said: "Certainly the profile at the moment is skewed heavily towards male students going into these programmes and into these professions and we would like to see more women. 

"It's a significant potential source and other countries do better in this area currently and there are probably some lessons we can learn from them."