Skills crisis in IT
Time for managers to get in training


Until business-savvy graduates are produced in numbers, employers will have to pay to plug the skills gap.

skills crisis in IT

Skills crisis in IT

In the 10 short months that Ive covered IT for these pages, not a week seems to have gone by without the release of another alarmist report inevitably including the words ?skills? and ?crisis?.

But while many of the press releases clogging my inbox could be dismissed as scaremongering, the underlying message is clear. The consensus is that the number of future IT vacancies will far outweigh the number of students embarking on computer A-levels and degrees and then progressing into the technology profession.

In April this year, for example, Cranfield School of Management reported that nearly half of all organisations thought that they would find it harder to attract good IT people in the future.

Such reports highlight what many have known for some time: the industry has singularly failed to replace the numbers lost after countless professionals left IT or the country, or both in the years following the dot-com crash. Before anything else, there must be more effort to educate and encourage the next generation of would-be IT professionals.

success in many years from now

Skills crisis in IT

The British Computer Society is doing its bit by working with universities to create qualifications that crucially address the non-technical skills vital for the IT professionals of tomorrow. The governments belated response, the Sector Skills Agreement for IT, has potential too, especially its IT Management for Business degree. But it will be years, maybe decades, before the industry will see the results, and that is only if such courses prove popular.

At present IT has a massive, self-perpetuating PR problem that continues to drive away school-leavers and women. It would be a shame if it got stuck in the same male-dominated rut as subjects such as maths and physics. This is ironic too, now that the so-called soft skills that women traditionally excel at are becoming prerequisites for IT professionals.

Still, the resounding image of the socially-inept techno geek with more spots than friends may yet prove to be the hardest hurdle to overcome. A huge marketing exercise is needed in schools to improve the image of IT and put it at the heart of the curriculum, so more school-leavers will be familiar enough with the subject and undeterred by negative stereotypes to consider a career in the industry. Teachers should obviously play a massive part in this, so efforts to improve their IT skills must not be forgotten either.

don’t rely on state money

Skills crisis in IT

But as we all know, the public sectors pockets are far from bottomless, and responsibility for tackling the problem must also be shared by private organisations. Chief executives around the world are beginning to realise the importance of IT to business success, so if the board decides it needs more business-savvy IT staff, it should put its money where its mouth is and train them up.

In short, companies must take the initiative to plug the skills gaps, whatever those skills might be, until we start to see that long-overdue influx of freshly-graduated, business-savvy information technologists.

For the sake of Europe’s economic prosperity, lets hope Im not saying the same things 10 years from now.