Two recent reports from e-skills UK and Unite provide conflicting messages of hope and concern for the future of the UK IT sector. However, both point to an impending crisis in the production line of new IT professionals and the system that supports their development through to senior management.
Despite recent uncertainty over the economic recovery, things appear far rosier for the IT sector. The latest e-skills UK report predicted IT sector growth up to five times faster this year than the UK industry average, with estimates of more than 100,000 new jobs created.
But this finding was accompanied by strong concerns that without urgent changes to the way we develop our IT professionals, the falling number of those taking IT options at school and university will starve the industry of talent and create serious skills shortages.
This disconnect between industry and education is not just present in secondary school and undergraduate study. A Unite survey of current UK IT employees out last month found 62 per cent felt they lacked the necessary training to keep their skills up to date.
Breakdown between IT industry and education
These results point to a breakdown in the critical relationship between the IT industry and the education system it supports. This breakdown is affecting the ability of educators to provide industry with the relevant skills it desperately needs. If nothing is done, this problem will, in time, turn employers off the benefits of continued staff learning.
There is a role here for the education sector and it starts by understanding how courses fit the structures of the real business world. This need means dispensing with the traditional course brochures and starting to speak in the industry language of IT skills and competency rather than certifications and accreditations.
The Open University is spearheading a change in approach by...
Kevin Streater is executive director, employer engagement for the IT and telecoms industry at the Open University.