Leadership investigate

How to make IT careers attract CIOs of the future

Interview: Corporate IT Forum chairman John Harris on building up the UK's IT skills...

...benefit the people being mentored but the mentors themselves.

"I'd love to mentor someone from another company in the early part of their career because I'd learn a couple of things. I'd learn first of all about another company, how they nurture talent, how that works. Also, you always learn more. You find out about how they're really using things like Twitter and Facebook to get value - and it's a different experience."

Harris also believes there should be little risk of people's heads being turned when they get an insight into another company because they should see the mentoring programme as a sign that their employers believe in them and value them enough to allow them to develop their skills.

He admitted there will need to be rules because there is an element of risk attached to people working in other businesses.

"If you're really keen on development and learning, you'll see this as a positive," he said.

Harris is aiming to get the mentoring programme off the ground in 2011, starting with a few trials to see how viable and useful it could be before rolling it out further.

Promoting IT as a career

The next area Harris is keen to explore is how the CITF and its members can help other industry bodies evangelise the IT industry to young people as an interesting and rewarding career choice.

Organisations such as Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths Network (Stemnet) require more ambassadors from the IT industry to go into schools and discuss careers in the IT industry, and Harris is keen to find out how CITF members could play a role in these activities.

"I would have thought that CITF members who were truly interested in learning and truly interested in developing talent in the longer term would have an interest in doing some of that," he said.

Harris is looking at how the CITF can work with organisations such as Stemnet to "play a broader role in promoting technology across the emerging workforce".

"It's finding the places where we can take our collective expertise from our members and apply that in a way that is good for the industry overall," he added.

He said this kind of work, while not paying back straight away, will be valuable in the long term as more people come into the IT workforce with the "right mindset and learning background" in five to 10 years' time.

Making the CITF a source of research

The final area Harris is looking at is linking up with universities so students studying technology-related subjects can use the CITF as a research source.

The idea is for students to access real business experience when doing their research but also for them to learn about what the CITF does and show that it's a useful organisation to work with when they start working in the industry.

Harris acknowledged there could be some issues to overcome about how students who are not members of the CITF can use some of the organisation's services, but he is confident that some services can eventually be shared.

Although not something that is likely to come to fruition this year, Harris said this scheme is part of the CITF's general strategy to attract people to the IT industry in the longer term.

"We're not going to solve that problem overnight but for out talent coming through we need to nurture them and help them more than ever," Harris said.