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Budget 2012: We need more IT apprentices

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It has not been a big budget for job creation. The Chancellor said the government was committed to increase adult apprenticeship funding by £250 million a year by 2014-15. The question is whether this is enough?

David Bywater, a KPMG tax partner, said, "The government is trying to support apprentices. It is a measure that is welcome, but the question is: is it enough? What will be the tangible benefits for business?"

However, Bindi Bhullar, director, HCL Technologies said: "Far from worrying about being left behind by foreign economies such as India, the government should instead look to follow their example, and find local government sponsorship for training and support from high-tech multinational corporations. There are so many savvy young minds who are facing the prospect of long-term unemployment today, and if the government is truly serious about embracing innovation, it should invest in IT skills for the young as a means of creating jobs, and driving Britain out of economic uncertainty."

David Roberts, executive director of The Corporate IT Forum, said, "Apprentices need much more support because the fall out rate is quite high. There has to be a mentoring programme in place. Apprentices need to have access to a business savvy mentor.

Declining university STEM courses: Getting to the root of the problem

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A guest blog from Dr Mike Lynch, CEO and Founder of Autonomy


The reduction of STEM subject university degree courses is a worrying trend that will undoubtedly have an impact on the UK IT industry. The problem, of course, begins before university, and that is where it needs to be addressed.


In the last few years, the way ICT has been taught in schools has 2663_10_6-mike-lynch-chief-executive-autonomy.pngstilted the imaginations of the young by boring them with the tedium of learning to use specific applications, instead of encouraging them to be creative with how they use technology and gain more widely applicable skills.


There is too much focus on learning to use specific platforms and applications - which will be years out of date by the time pupils leave school - and not enough on the fundamentals of technology. Young people are inherently good at getting to grips with using technology - why spend weeks teaching them what they can teach themselves in hours?


Keeping children engaged in Maths and Science at school will improve the demand for those courses at university and, with the right kind of IT skills, lead to a more employable generation of graduates.



How can the UK enhance and inspire superior technology skills in the workforce?

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A guest post by Nick Wilson, UK Managing Director, of HP


The UK's ICT sector contributes £81bn of added value to the UK's economy. The sector is the largest in Europe and employs over a million people who contribute 10% of GDP, according to UK Trade and Investment.


On the surface the technology sector looks very secure - after all, the internet alone is worth £100bn a year to the UK economy.


It is clear that the UK is in an enviable position, but it is not a secure position. What the figures don't show is the technology investment gap in the UK, also called the IT skills gap. This is a problem that technology firms, and any organisation seeking to hire skilled technology staff, are facing right now.


The CBI's Building for Growth report that showed over 40% of employers struggle to fill these skilled roles; over half expect this to increase. I have no doubt the problem is more pronounced in small and mid-sized companies who find it hard to compete for the best IT staff. These companies are the engine of growth for the UK. We all need their innovation, energy and insight and we risk hampering their growth potential by not providing them the talent pool they need.


A big impediment to growth, businesses face, is getting the right people with the right skills. Everybody I speak to, in the IT industry, agrees that the lack of job-focused IT skills in UK school leavers and graduates is causing recruitment problems in the technology sector at a time when we wrestle with unemployment across the country.


The eSkills UK Technology Insights 2011 report quantified this problem, reporting that the UK is failing to capitalise on the £50bn productivity gain which could be achieved through the better use of technology.


The technology industry is taking responsibility for this issue - we have to if we are to continue to innovate and grow. The sector is increasingly stepping in to help with approaches ranging from transforming the technology curriculum to investing in new entrepreneurs.


For example Vodafone Ventures global investment is set to invest in the next wave of wireless start-ups. Vodafone will also expand its high tech version of Dragon's Den called 'Mobile Clicks' to coach the next generation of online entrepreneurs. And Intel Innovators has launched a contest where entrepreneurs can win $100,000 each month for the best tech-based ideas.


For our part, we recently launched the 'HP Institute', a new set of courses delivered by schools, colleges and training providers. This will give up to 20,000 people over the next four years the business and technology skills to help them secure long term careers and help businesses benefit from their skills from day one on the job. The courses have been designed to provide the kinds of skills that small and mid-sized companies need most. They cover the full realm of technology as well as a course on cloud computing and a vitally important module on IT and business which grounds the technology in the world of business.


This is the latest initiative in an ongoing series of programmes that has seen partnerships with The University of the West of England, De Montfort University and Buckinghamshire New University where HP jointly writes and delivers courses to directly improve the employability of graduates. And last year HP committed itself to creating new entry-level technology apprenticeships, in the Gosport, Portsmouth and Glasgow areas.


We've also seen that the government understands this issue and is making moves to address the skills gap, in particular, with the computer science GCSE qualification.


That does not mean there is less for the technology industry to do. On the contrary, we need more companies stepping up to the challenge to help broaden the horizons of the young and encouraging more of them to join this exciting, fast moving and profitable sector.

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Video: HP on the IT services people business

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In this video recorded at a Microsoft roundtable, Marc Waters, director of strategy and communicatuons for HP in the UK and Ireland takes about the the people business. He says 50% of HP's business is IT services, which means people are important. "They are the inventory and the R&D of the business. You have to invest in the skills of the people you have, and bring in the best people."

To support this, HP is identifying universities to form partnerships with and build innovations labs.

Video: Birmingham City University works with IT companies like SAP and Microsoft

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In the third video interview from our roundtable with Microsoft, Rehan Bhana, senior lecturer, Birmingham City University, discusses the benefits of the university working with industry partners.

Bhana is responsible for developing curricula for postgraduate and undergraduate courses. The university has worked with SAP to develop a Master of Science in Enterprise Systems Management. Through the course, he says, "A lot of our students get access to analytics software and an opportunity to [speak to] specialist staff."

The course provides students with relevant skills and an opportunity for student work placements at SAP and SAP partners, according to Bhana. The university also works with Microsoft and Oracle. It supports Oracle's Think Quest and Microsoft's Imagine Cup competition. He says such competitions offer the student an international platform and allows students to problem-based learning from an industry perspective.

Video: Why work placements work

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In this video blog post Peter Goring, a student at Kingston University, talks about the need for university students to have some form of "guaranteed work placement." He says, "Many student do not understand the benefits of getting a placement."

However, Goring believes that if universities only select a few companies for industry placements, it may restrict student choice and their experience. 

H advises students to start early in the jobs market. "Students have to learn to sell themselves well and build a portfolio now, such as create a website from scratch, with lots of pictures of what you have done, using clear concise writing."

This video was filmed as part of a Microsoft roundtable discussion. Watch the video interview with Microsoft's Simon May >>
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Video interview: Skills upgrade

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It has been a few weeks since the last post. We have been busy at Computer Weekly working on a series of video podcasts on IT skills and training.

Simon May, previously worked in financial institutes, He has been a technical evangelist at Microsoft for a year. In this video May says that previously, there was a lot of stability in IT skills. However, things like cloud and consumerisation means that people have to upgrade their skills.

Given the state of the economy, he believes that businesses will need to reduce costs, while at the same time, grow. IT is one of the ways to achieve this, and so IT training is key.

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The Foundation of Success

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Jenny Taylor, IBM UK Graduate, apprenticeship and student manager, gives some insight into the qualities she looks for in new graduates.

Adaptability - you need to be flexible when things change. Think about how do you cope with changing demands, uncertainty and stress? Can you demonstrate that you have successfully completed several projects or assignments with competing deadlines? 

Teamwork & Collaboration - How do you work with others to achieve shared goals? Do you respect and value others' differences? Do you easily build and maintain relationships with others? Do you offer support and help others and share your expertise with them to enhance the effectiveness of the team? 

Communication - Think about how you communicate with others. Do you present oral and written information clearly, precisely and succinctly? Do you match the way you communicate with the requirements of the situation and your audience? Do you listen carefully to others, asking questions when necessary to ensure understanding? 

Drive to achieve - You need to be committed to success and accomplishing challenging goals. Do you take the initiative to learn new skills that will be useful for your future career? Do you learn about things beyond the scope of your current job or assignment? Are you prepared to put in as much additional time or effort as is necessary to ensure high quality results? 

Creative problem solving - This is all about using ingenuity, supported by logical methods and appropriate analysis, to propose solutions to problems. Do you conduct thorough fact-finding and analysis, anticipating any potential problems and then plan accordingly? Do you put forward new ideas for activities at university or work and offer innovative ideas to overcome challenges? 

Client focus - As a client focused organisation we look for people who share this focus and can anticipate their needs and respond appropriately. Don't think about 'clients' just in the sense of 'customers' - clients' can also be colleagues, study groups, maybe even lecturers. Do you build rapport quickly and easily and think about a situation from their point of view? Do you recommend solutions that meet their needs? Do you act with their satisfaction as top priority? 

Passion for the business - This is all about being able to demonstrate a passion for the company and the industry in which we operate. Learn about what IBM does, and the recent achievements we have had. Can you demonstrate knowledge of recent trends within the IT & Consulting industry? 

Taking ownership - This is all about identifying and taking responsibility proactively for tasks and decisions in a timely manner. Can you demonstrate when you've accepted responsibility for mistakes and worked to correct them? Do you focus on resolving difficult situations rather than finding someone to blame? Do you anticipate potential problems with a project and then plan accordingly, implementing decisions with speed and urgency? 

We see these competencies as complementing our values and identifying the skills people need to succeed. The best place to start is by identifying how you've already used these skills. What have you done that shows you have demonstrated these competencies in your university life, your work experience, or your personal interests? That's what will make an employer think "we must find out more about this person!" 

The trends that are shaping the industry

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In this guest blog pos  Matthew Poyiadgi, European VP, CompTIA, looks at the need for IT professionals to keep ahead of the curve by learning new skills.

One of the problems of training is keeping courses relevant in such a rapidly changing industry. I'll come on to training for the future in the next blog. First, let's look at some of the issues IT professionals will soon face, and which will be made all the more challenging without proper training.

It's been said before, but cloud and tablets will change the way we work over the next few years. The success of tablets could spell also the end of flash; cloud could remove the need for an OS, and HTML5 could replace everything so we just stay connected to the Cloud using a browser device. Servers won't disappear overnight so we will still need networking and computer skills, but they will no longer be a de facto part of IT. 

As people access company data from various locations and devices, security issues will change completely. Tablets can get infections from home networks, which can spread to the corporate network. Support for tablets' closed hardware system is very different to PCs.

Increased connectivity raises an even more worrying question. If we carry on as we are, how long before our internet IT infrastructure crumbles under the weight of all our data? As more people move to the cloud we need to change our technology to cope with this increase, or failing that, change the way we use IT. 

These are just a few of the challenges for IT professionals of the near future, and should be high on the agenda for anyone making big purchasing decisions in coming years. We need to train for technology used now, but we also need to start training people who are ready for these problems.

The CompTIA EMEA Member Conference will include a session on technology trends that are shaping the IT industry.

IT sector must speak in skills to bridge gaps in capability and boost IT workforce

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Kevin Streater is executive director for IT employer engagement at The Open University. The Open University will be contributing a series of articles for ITWorks over the coming weeks breaking down the skills requirements for making your way in the IT profession. First in the series looks how the problems the IT sector faces in plugging its skills gaps

Whatever the uncertainties around the economic climate one thing that is increasingly clear is that the fate of the IT sector will be central to the UK's economic recovery.

E-Skills UK's Technology Insights report for 2011 calculates the ICT sector to be worth £100bn to the UK economy - a figure they predict could grow by £50bn over the next decade causing employment in the industry to grow nearly five times faster than the UK average.

But as we have seen from concerns over imminent skills shortages and falling numbers of IT and computer science graduates, it is not safe to assume that we have the workforce to fill a widening job market.

The crisis in UK IT centres on the development of new professionals and the system that supports their development through to senior management. The future of the sector is being harmed by graduates who are frustrated at the standard and relevance of their personal development - and employers that are concerned that the graduates they take on lack the skills and experience to transfer their understanding of IT into the workplace.

It's a challenge that requires a brand new approach from educators, dispensing with the traditional course brochures and starting to speak in the industry language of IT skills and competency.

The fact is a lot the difficulties facing the IT sector at present come down to barriers, both perceived and real, that have cast doubt on the public's views of IT as an affordable and accessible profession with a traversable route up to well paid senior management roles.

If companies want to attract and retain the best talent coming out of university into entry-level positions (which often can't compete financially with those offered by the City and law firms), they need to demonstrate clearer career pathways supported by intuitive and strategic staff learning.

At the Open University we are looking to untangle the multitude of job roles and skills requirements which we hope will help kick start a new openness in IT and see the numbers return to an industry that desperately needs them.

Over the coming weeks The Open University will publish a series of articles aiming to introduce Computer Weekly readers to a new approach to IT education and professional development throughout their sector.

This new model is based on intensive research and industry engagement by the University, encompassing skills mapping and job profiling that together meet the capability requirements of modern business. By breaking down the business driven competencies for each role into a selection of skills elements these articles will demonstrate the change in skills demand as you work your way up the IT ladder and guide you through the education tools available to help you make this transition.

This approach will help CIOs and IT managers create a skills development path that will put in motion a conveyer belt, turning entry-level staff into the company's future senior management.

Throughout these articles we will be encouraging Computer Weekly readers to ask questions via the ITWorks hash tag #ITworksCW, the Facebook page and the comment sections under each article. These questions will be collated and the most popular ones will form the basis of final article with answers provided by The Open University's expert careers advisors.