Stuart Gentle Publisher at Onrec

IT training initiative - 04/2001

Networking People urges the government to refocus

A leading IT recruitment specialist is questioning the effectiveness of the Government's intention to invest 34m in IT training for the long-term unemployed. Networking People believes that the problems underpinning the IT skills shortage will not be solved by this initiative unless the whole approach to the issue of attracting new entrants to the IT industry is addressed.

Tom Smith, director at Networking People, specialises in sourcing IT professionals for employers across the globe and is acutely aware of the IT skills deficit that the industry faces. He comments; While we welcome investment in training and acknowledge that this initiative may give hope to some of the long-term unemployed, it won't begin to tackle the immediate IT skills shortage issue - particularly the supply of people with skills in emerging technologies.

Government training programmes need to be more strategic if they are to be useful tools to drive unemployment down. Ambition IT ignores the fact that the mass IT vacancies identified exist at a level that far above the requirement for basic competency. Clearly, the Government needs to take a closer look at the bigger issue, which is why we are so under skilled and under-resourced in this sector.

Although there is a steady supply of the real home-grown talent, those people are enthusiasts and will enter the industry whatever policy the government implements. The enthusiasts will typically be employed by small technology companies who provide specialist, high-level IT solutions but not the basic IT requirements. The industry is failing to attract sufficient numbers of career oriented professionals. Information technology should now be recognised as a main stream career choice with a cornucopia of alternative paths to follow. The role of the Government ought to be to address the immediate and long term short fall of middle ranking IT professionals by stimulating interest from suitable individuals who are either considering their future career or looking to change career.

The Government needs to begin by channelling investment into raising the standard of IT courses in schools, colleges and universities and also encouraging businesses to invest in IT so that there is a continual upward slope for earnings and employment that ensures rare skills are attracted into the industry.

For employers to be at the heart of training people they need financial incentives - not least to be able to widen the scope of internal training beyond the traditional graduate training ground to harness potential from employees looking for a career change.

The pace of change within the industry means that IT professionals at all levels have to continually reskill to keep up. Those employers who set up continuous employee IT training programmes in response will reap financial rewards that are sustainable in the long term.

Although Ambition IT is substantially more than a token gesture to bring down general employment levels, it is unlikely to equip individuals with the ability to fill the long term 'real' shortfalls in the IT marketplace. In short, we need to get ambitious and implement training programmes that matches IT professionals to the vacancy requirement in the industry.