IT jobs: CIOs and universities must build career paths

Better career ladders through IT education will help industry bridge skills gap…

... driving new engagement between industry and education to address this issue. An example is the Skills Framework for the Information Age, or SFIA, where engagement with business is helping develop a series of IT job profiles that detail the skills required for each role.

Covering skills gaps in the workforce

By mapping courses to this framework, we can provide prospective students with a clear idea of the courses they need for a particular position and can work with companies to cover skills gaps in their workforce.

Too often IT accreditations alone are seen as the solution to developing staff for the fast-paced, ever-changing world of IT. Using SFIA, CIOs and IT managers can create a skills development path that incorporates short courses and higher level education within an academic, qualifications framework. This approach not only improves IT capability but ensures the skills learnt during the courses are taken through into application in the workplace.

The SFIA model will also improve the conveyer belt that turns entry-level staff into the company's future senior management. In these times of economic uncertainty, maximising our existing IT talent is essential if we are to mitigate a seemingly unavoidable skills shortage.

Through our collaborations with the BCS, e-skills UK, SFIA, and by talking to other organisations such as the CBI, The Open University is helping create clear career paths up to well-paid senior management roles. This collaboration will not only maximise the resources we have in the industry but may even help reverse the declining interest in IT as a career option for school-leavers.

Barriers to better paid senior management jobs

From our experiences, a lot of the dissatisfaction highlighted in the Unite survey comes from perceived barriers to better paid senior management jobs. If companies want to attract and retain the best talent coming out of university while maximising the potential of the talent already at its disposal, they need to demonstrate clearer career ladders supported by intuitive and strategic staff learning.

With this change in IT education, led by The Open University, now underway, the onus is on industry to commit to this new vision for producing and developing our IT professionals. 2011 could see unprecedented growth in UK IT with far-reaching benefits across our commercial, government and public sectors.

But this can only happen if IT managers change course in their approach to staff development and start to think of IT education as a long-term, strategic and essential investment in the future of their organisation.

On 9 February, Kevin Streater, executive director for IT employer engagement at The Open University, will be speaking at the Westminster eForum keynote seminar 'Skills for the UK digital economy - delivering the IT professionals of the future'.