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IT and telecoms forecast to become UK's most important economic sectors

Rebecca Thomson

The computing and telecoms sectors will be the UK's most significant industries in the future, a report on the health of the country's skills market has predicted.

The National Strategic Skills Audit, by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, says the sectors need help to rid themselves of the skills shortages that have plagued them for the past few years.

Telecoms and IT need to be a high priority for policy makers to make sure the UK capitalises on the potential of the digital economy, it says.

"Specific and significant management and professional skill shortages have been identified in the computing and software sectors. These occupations receive the highest [priority] rating because of the direct and indirect significance of the digital economy and the importance of these occupations within those industries," the report says.

"More specifically, this includes management skills to harness the potential of the digital media industry through delivery of multi-platform content, the successful operation of networks within the sector, and the exploitation and commercialisation of broader ICTs in manufacturing and across the wider economy."

The report names computing as currently the fourth most significant sector in the UK, behind financial services, business services and real estate, and says it is the only highly-significant sector with skills shortages. It predicts that telecoms and computing will be the two most important sectors in the future.

"The digital sector makes a significant contribution to the economy and harnessing its potential will be key to the UK's future competitiveness and prosperity. It provides high levels of value added, and employs 2.5 million people (approximately one in 11 of the working population), many of whom are highly skilled. Growth in technology occupations over the past 10 years has been twice the average for the whole economy," it says.

Skills gaps affect more than three-quarters of the existing technology workforce, especially in IT programme management, supplier management and service management and delivery at senior levels, the report reveals.

It identifies areas of advanced manufacturing that are in critical need of technology-related skills.

"The innovations in technology which characterise the sector are created from cross-disciplinary fertilisation. This gives rise to the need for individuals with an understanding of multiple scientific disciplines, and the different target markets and supply chains that the innovations can supply. Management and leadership, new product development and commercialisation skills are important and will become more so as the sector develops," says the report.


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