UK tech skills crisis 'exaggerated'

CIO Jury: No lack of homegrown IT talent...

The UK is not suffering from an IT skills crisis despite the falling numbers of students opting for computer science degrees.

The number of full-time undergraduates studying IT courses in the UK has fallen by a third since 2002 to 75,000 students in 2006, according to university admissions body UCAS.

But 10 out of the 12-strong CIO Jury IT user panel said they are not finding it a problem recruiting the right skills for their departments.

Rorie Devine, CTO at online betting exchange Betfair, pointed out that while the number of IT undergraduates fell to 75,000 in 2006, that is still higher than the number of full-time undergraduates on IT courses between 1998 and 2001.

He said: "One explanation is that since 1998/99 the IT industry has benefited from a dot-com bubble of attractiveness that peaked in 2002/03, and is now past its high point."

There is little evidence of a skills crisis in the public sector either. Alan Shrimpton, IT director at Avon & Somerset Constabulary, said: "Apart from one specialist skill where we simply aren't paying the market rate we are not experiencing any difficulties recruiting staff. Moreover, we have three work experience students working within the department at the moment and they are all very capable."

Skills Survey 2007

Find out the results of this year's Skills Survey:

Are CIOs getting less cash?
How the staffing crisis is deepening
How techie salaries are faring
Offshoring still a hot potato
Banks hardest hit by staff crisis
Industry falling out of love with IT grads

Graham Yellowley, director of technology services at investment bank, Mitsubishi UFJ Securities International, said there are always periods of both skills shortage and surplus but, in his view, there is no crisis in the UK.

He said: "The UK continues to provide a healthy education base for employers to select from. Graduates in particular are looking for moves into various industries, including financial services, and the question is whether companies are then making best use of that talent."

Ian Campbell, CIO at British Energy, said higher-level IT and commercial skills are in short supply but added that more generic roles are increasingly going to system integrators and offshore companies.

Gavin Whatrup, group IT director at marketing and advertising agency Creston, said he has found plenty of choice - whether homegrown or from overseas - for the majority of positions he recruits for but raised concerns about the future.

He said: "Where is the new supply of IT staff coming from? With IT no longer on the 'in high demand' band for non-nationals, recruiting staff from overseas is going to become more difficult. The UK is still an attractive place to work for overseas technicians but we cannot solely rely on this source."

The live on-stage version of this debate takes place on 15 October 2007 at the CIO Forum in London. Click here for more details of the event.

Today's CIO Jury was…

Chris Broad, head of IM & technology, UK Atomic Energy Authority
Paul Broome, technical director, Hachette Filipacchi UK
Ian Campbell, CIO at British Energy
Colin Cobain, group IT director, Tesco
Rorie Devine, CTO, Betfair
Myron Hrycyk, CIO, NYK Logistics UK
Jacques Rene, CTO, Ascend Aerospace
Peter Ryder, head of ICT, Preston City Council
Alan Shrimpton, IT director, Avon & Somerset Constabulary
Richard Steel, CIO, London Borough of Newham
Gavin Whatrup, group IT director, Creston
Graham Yellowley, director of technology services, Mitsubishi UFJ Securities International

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