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IT skills crisis - is it over for good?

The vast majority of firms are neither struggling to secure the IT skills they need nor investing in training IT staff, finds an annual report into the state of the IT jobs market.

The vast majority of firms in the UK have seen no evidence of an IT skills shortage, according to a report released today.

Just one in seven businesses surveyed by the National Skills Academy for IT had difficulties filling IT and telecoms roles last year.

The level of training available to IT staff in the UK also doesn't suggest that businesses view workers' tech skills as lacking. The proportion of IT workers who received employer training last year was lower than that for other UK professions, and only about three per cent of firms had a dedicated budget for training IT staff.

The figures were revealed in the Technology Insights 2012 report by the IT industry skills body e-skills UK.

The fact that most firms don't appear to be struggling to secure IT skills seemingly undermines warnings from bodies like e-skills and the European Commission that a lack of expertise will hamper the growth of the tech sector.

Dr Jonathan Liebenau, reader in Technology Management at the London School of Economics, said the report demonstrates that an IT skills shortage is not a concern for most employers.

“People don't think that it's worth spending a lot of money to train people in-house,” he said.

”If they're not going to put their money where their mouth is, they can't go on complaining about how the skills shortage is caused by a poor labour market, but that's not how they're behaving.”

Demand for IT staff remains substantially below what it was before the economic crash in 2008.

There were about 116,000 advertised IT and telecoms vacancies during each quarter of 2011, according to the e-skills report, far fewer than the close to 200,000 IT and telecoms posts advertised in the first quarter of 2008 and more than 350,000 posts vacant in the second quarter of 2001.

There are signs of what the report calls a “partial recovery” since the economic crash, which caused the number of IT and telecoms vacancies to slump to 82,000 in 2009.

But e-skills has downgraded its forecast for the rate at which new jobs will be created in the IT industry from predictions made in its Technology Insights report last year. The 2012 report predicts the number of jobs in the industry will increase by 0.54 per cent each year between now and 2020, down from the forecast of 2.19 per cent it made in its 2011 report.

The 2012 report says this reduction is largely down to expected cuts to non-IT staff in the industry and that the number of IT jobs will still grow at nearly twice the rate of the national workforce.

There will also continue to be high demand for new people to enter IT and telecoms roles, due largely to the need to replace people leaving the profession. The 2012 report predicts there will be 129,000 new entrants to the professions each year through to 2015.

e-skills CEO Karen Price said that with the forecast increase in IT jobs: “it is vital that we continue to invest in the skills of those working in technology, and create new routes for young people to enter exciting and challenging careers in the industry.”

The majority of vacancies for IT and telecoms staff in 2011 were for permanent posts, 79 per cent, and in the areas of development, design or support, with systems developers accounting for more than one quarter of all positions advertised.

The technical skills most often called for in 2011 were: SQL, C, C#, .NET and Java.

About

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

25 comments
hacker_jack
hacker_jack

What silly measures. "Just one in seven businesses surveyed by the National Skills Academy for IT had difficulties filling IT and telecoms roles last year." Considering the majority of businesses shrunk their staff rather than grew that is hardly surprising. I would wager a number of those offered no new roles to have difficulty filling. "The proportion of IT workers who received employer training last year was lower than that for other UK professions..." A sign of stagnation in IT infrastructure investments or a move to invisible in-house training. "and only about three per cent of firms had a dedicated budget for training IT staff." Relevant how exactly? Many businesses do not have dedicated training budgets per skill-sector.

Rob3214
Rob3214

Govt allows unrestricted IT migration from outside EU. Local IT people find it hard to get job. Outsourcing = no entry level IT jobs. Word gets out - IT enrolments at Uni decline. Why bother training anyone in UK for IT ? I say - Shut down all IT courses in UK

nagkumar
nagkumar

In my view there could be two possible reasons to see this trend 1. Thinking Positive: Management has learned that Training's can't help 2. Thinking Negative: Management has learned to sell any body and any CV on the name of low hourly rate. Because clients are so tuned to paying for low hourly rates, without any care for total cost

TrueDinosaur
TrueDinosaur

What about the needs for mainframe skills? Us old COBOL, VSAM, CICS, IMS, DB2, JCL people are retiring or dying off.

Weebleswobble
Weebleswobble

Cheap labor, cheap IT, and technology making it simple for people to work around the inadequacies. Those that remain in jobs in the US and the UK, are picking up the slack and performing multiple positions duties and getting any training and skill upgrades by either applying the new knowledge on top of the old knowledge on the fly, or doing it themselves. Businesses still folding or cutting staff and outsourcing/off-shoring. That's our reality.

Dukhalion
Dukhalion

There was a cheap labor crisis. And where did we get cheap labor? India and other overpopulated countries like it. Was the imported workforce skilled? With a few exceptions no. But hey, they worked for almost nothing, that's good isn't it? No, because our own skilled and expensively trained citizens were forced to go unemployed. Why do people still in this day and age elect governments that have no common sense at all...

colette smith
colette smith

As an Finance person who moved over to IT, I find it insulting that people who want to learn don't get the opportunity due the fact that the US is importing people from India and other countries to fill jobs that are available. Under minding and under paying so that we are still in a bubble for unemployment because of that sort of small minded thinking and greed.

agrawal_anupam
agrawal_anupam

If you overtrain in a particular year, then obviously you are creating a pool who will be ready to deploy in the coming years and as such it is not fair to link the demand of training with the IT Skill crisis. IT as a domain changes much faster than anticipated and there will be IT skill shortages every time. In India we do have the skill crisis for few technologies but can say that the production is also well but the real crisis strucks when you want to have people who are above average in terms of utilising the skills.

PMPsicle
PMPsicle

The most frightening thing is that the last study showed that the UK was the leader in employee training.

sysdev
sysdev

Yes, a lot of people are joining the IT industry. They bring some talent with them, but not the experience required. The only people who say they don't need any more skilled IT professionals are the Peter Principle violators who helped create this problem as they rose into positions of authority for which they did not have the proper skillset do not have the proper skillset to determine their real technical (computer staff) needs either. It is clearly a case of jumping off a cliff with eyes wide shut. And it is getting worse world wide.

david
david

Within the mix of factors inhibiting employer demand for greater IT expertise, also consider the net effect (pun intended) of Grid Computing, cast in today's starring role as The Cloud. More specifically, {S,P,I,...)aaS offerings to a number present to corporate management (and particularly financial officers) the appearance that IT expertise, however ephemeral, has attained commodity status, whence the impression that information technology beyond the grid provider space should invariably be leased. We may take solace in contemplating the fleeting nature of such impressions (as well as how suddenly a given resource shortage can translate to a systemic risk or market shock), yet once tarred with a brush ....

rclark
rclark

First. IT is a big place. Don't bet the farm on there not being shortages now because there appears to be sufficient network support people currently employed in the UK. There are major social/economic factors that are holding down both training and hiring. And the largest markets for IT are currently in deep recession or at least stagnated/anemic growth cycles. The UK may have its fill of tech talent. Good for them. But how long will no skills trainning work for them? Anyone heard of the cloud, metro, apps, all of which were just theories when we went into this recessive phase. And unfortunately, at the higher levels of IT, it takes awhile to get good enough to affect the bottom line routinely. Though it does seem pretty easy to be bad enough to do so. You get what you pay for, in trainning, in loyalty, in longevity. If you want the best, invest in the best.

omg.itlead
omg.itlead

As we continue changing our social, business and professional information and communication environment we will need different skills. Wait for the next wave. I disagree with 5-15 years. More like 2-5 years tops.

rochek
rochek

One of the main reasons that the UK does not have a skills crisis is that they have imported skilled people from elsewhere. I have recently worked with many skilled IT people from Europe, Africa and India. What will happen if they decide to go home or some future government decides to restrict their stay here?

dogknees
dogknees

There'll be another one in somewhere between 5 and 15 years. So its not over for good.

jkameleon
jkameleon

Always approaching, forever imminent.

rsamitk
rsamitk

Obviously the management has learnt to sell anybody and any CV to the client on the name of low hourly rate. Rates have come down to as low as $18/hour in some cases. You pay lesser you get lower skilled people. That is bound to happen. There are now hundreds of thousands IT graduates being prepared in countries like India, China, Brazil, Mexico etc. All of them can't be super skilled and not all projects required super skilled people.

AssemblerRookie
AssemblerRookie

choice between the ignorant or the stupid. The question is "Why in the so-called civilized western world, there is only a choice based on two parties"? Surely the more competition the better. Apparently not.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Why am I earning half as much as I was ten years ago, because of the skills crisis back then? I know I'm a propeller head but supply and demand isn't too difficult a concept even for me....

cybershooters
cybershooters

Seem to recall they already made it more difficult a couple of years ago, by putting in a high minimum income threshold for people on work permits and making it more difficult to get permanent residency. Doesn't affect people from the EU or Schengen Area though.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Not the two incumbents (or 2 1/2 in the UK). Mention it to them and they both go straight into FUD mode and tell you that this would mean consensus politics (oh the horror) or the truly scary, majority parties (your/their flavour of course) would be hamstrung and wouldn't be able to introduce "radical" (feel free to roll about laughing) policies to fix the system (define fix !) In short, a very naive point of view you have there. :D

reelskills
reelskills

A legitimate point, that often goes ignored. There's a reason why entry-level web coders were pulling in $80-100G nearly a decade ago, and it's not because HTML or Javascript is the equivalent of astrophysics.

HypnoToad72
HypnoToad72

But who said "supply and demand" was a real construct, that couldn't be made malleable upon convenience?

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Basic CRUD database applications... :p Now you could argue that salaries were foolishly inflated in that period, but it was demand outstripping supply that did it. Certainly wasn't kind hearted business heads trying to help the ecomomy alomng by paying us big money... So if skills shortage = higher salary and we have a skills shortage now....

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

why it was right and proper for me to take a pay cut. Something about there are loads of people who who would be glad to have my job. Some of them might actually be able to do it as well.....