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...

Corporate IT Forum chairman John Harris wants the organisation address IT skills

Corporate IT Forum chairman John Harris wants the organisation to play a bigger role in developing IT skills and promoting the industry to young peoplePhoto: The Corporate IT Forum

The IT skills shortage has long been an issue but it's been made worse by the outsourcing and offshoring of jobs, and a growing reluctance of young people to work in the industry. The result is insufficient home-grown IT talent entering businesses.

The Corporate IT Forum (CITF) is one of the organisations trying to address IT skills development by tapping into the expertise of its 320 member organisations and 10,000 individual members.

Founded in 1996, the CITF is a non-profit IT industry group that counts some of the world's largest businesses and public sector organisations among its members.

Much of the organisation's work is about helping businesses make savings and create value through the use of IT. Members share knowledge through case studies and innovation sessions and collaborate with other members embarking on similar projects. A focus for the CITF is developing skills and chairman John Harris is looking at several ways the organisation can help boost IT skills in the longer term.

He recently outlined to three initiatives he wants the organisation to focus on to lay the foundations for a strong IT workforce for the UK in the future.

The skills problem

The CITF is fairly good at sharing knowledge between companies about present issues, according to Harris, but it could do more to address longer term issues.

As a result of the outsourcing and offshoring of junior IT roles eroding the UK tech talent pool, Harris said there's no longer the pipeline of young IT professionals who will grow into the senior IT leaders of the future.

"It perhaps means that IT is less attractive for school-leavers and university leavers to come into so we need to be aware of that," he said.

"If you try to hire an architect now it is harder because there are fewer folks who've gone through the traditional career path of junior analyst, analyst, senior analyst, lead tech analyst - that technical channel. A big chunk of that now probably is outside your company and often in another company. So it is harder - we're already seeing that. There's no doubt that certain key skillsets are becoming harder to get," he added.

If nothing is done to address these problems, they're likely to worsen - so Harris feels the industry must act now. "We need to find out these different angles and different ways of learning. The traditional, 'Go on a course, read a paper' - it just isn't enough these days," he said.

Mentoring young tech talent

The first new approach for addressing skills that Harris and the CITF are exploring is the development of a mentoring programme for IT graduates.

The idea is that IT professionals "at the earlier parts of their career" hook up with senior professionals working for major companies or government departments separate from their employer.

This approach will provide younger IT professionals with experience of working in another company and give them access to the wealth of knowledge of senior people in a different environment.

Harris added that the mentoring won't just...