With technology evolving rapidly, there’s no doubt that the IT sector is set to experience considerable growth both in the near future and longer term. While there are huge opportunities for the UK if it can establish itself as a leading global player, the current skills shortage has made it challenging for the sector to keep pace with demand. Indeed, a report by GfK last year found that 77 per cent of London tech businesses said that if more skilled people were available, they would grow faster.
It is vital for those already working in the industry to communicate the benefits of a career in IT more clearly. This will help attract a wider talent base and skills set to the industry and ensure tech companies have access to the best potential candidates. There also needs to be a greater commitment to providing training and apprenticeships to help those working in the sector build their knowledge, skills and expertise.
Improving the perception of a career in IT
The number of graduates choosing to study IT at degree level is in decline so it’s important to provide students with a better understanding of what a career in IT entails. At the moment, there seems to be a perception among young people that a career in IT is dull. However, on the contrary, a career in IT is akin to the technologies, devices and social networks that this group are arguably most accustomed to. It’s important that companies use this to their advantage and attract more young people into the industry by raising awareness of the variety of roles available within IT.
However, it’s not just about encouraging more people to study IT. Technology companies also need to be more involved in shaping the direction of learning. Ultimately, this will be to their own benefit – as education will turn-out young people with better quality skills and experience, which are more aligned to the business requirement. Additionally, in line with recent department of education plans, we found that 56% of technology professionals believe programming should be integrated into the curriculum for secondary education from 2015 onwards, and 86% think primary school age is an appropriate time to introduce children to computing in general.
More vocational training
Companies should also be more willing to take on candidates who they can train up. This allows them to shape people to their way of working and ensure they meet business requirements. 60% of technology professionals have told us that degrees alone are not enough to help jobseekers break into the IT industry, and 76% felt vocational training courses were a worthy alternative. Some organisations have been making a real difference; The Raspberry Pi Foundation, creators of the super-cheap Raspberry Pi computer, has been helping to re- popularise programming in the UK in the way that the Sinclair Spectrum and BBC Micro did in the 1980s. Google has also rolled-out specialist tech teachers to help schools across England enhance their IT curriculum, and we’ve seen EE recently announce ‘Techy tea parties’ to help up-skill our youth.
Fast-tracking women, and visas for technology experts
As well as the need to encourage more young people to join the sector, there are other vast sources of talent that are being under utilised. A report released this month from Internet company Nominet found that increasing the number of women working in IT to fill the skills shortage could generate an extra £2.6 billion for the UK economy each year. Women currently make up less than one fifth of the IT workforce across the UK, a key factor of which is low female participation in IT education at school. Further statistics show only one third of ICT A-level students and less than a tenth of Computer Studies A-Level students are female; these figures desperately need to be improved for London to sustain tech growth.
Along with increasing the participation of women, it’s important we have access to the best and brightest talent inside and outside the EU. David Cameron’s announcement in December of fast-tracked visas for world-class technology experts was an encouraging step in the right direction.
For the UK to take advantage of the potential growth opportunity from IT, it is essential we invest in the next generation of IT talent and encourage more people to consider IT as a future career. Indeed, Boris Johnson’s mission is to make London the tech capital of the world but this will only be possible if we have the right workforce to deliver success.
Richard Nott, Website Director, CWJobs.co.uk