In Computer Weekly's review of the best of the IT year in 2010, here we look back on the top 10 IT skills stories of the year.
It was a tough year for almost everyone working in UK IT, with job uncertainty continuing, spending cuts in the public sector, and growing demands on corporate IT departments from increasingly tech-savvy users. But as the year ended, the recruitment market started to look up.
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The government announced a cap on the number of non-EU immigrant workers allowed in the UK every year, but many in the IT profession believe it will do little to prevent abuse of an immigration loophole. The government promised to cut immigration to the UK from nearly 200,000 a year to "tens of thousands." It was a Conservative pledge in the build-up to the general election, although opposed by the Liberal Democrats.
As George Osborne presses ahead with drastic attempts to reduce the structural deficit, the public sector is already haemorrhaging IT talent: the hiring freeze continues and apprenticeships face an uncertain future. Real evidence of this can be found at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), where about a dozen apprentices employed across the IT organisation will not have the chance to take on permanent roles, regardless of their capability.
Recruiting and retaining people with cyber skills is one of the top challenges to law enforcement, says the head of the Metro Police Central e-Crime Unit (PCeU). "The shortage of skills is a real issue," Charlie McMurdie, detective superintendent, PCeU told the Cyber Security 2010 Summit in London.
US industry, government and military computer systems are at risk of attack, analysts warn. Even US security officials say the country's cyber defences are inadequate, according to US reports. Cyber security specialists say too few people are moving into the field to support US national security objectives.
Major technology companies have released a joint manifesto in a bid to revitalise economic growth and employment. The e-Skills manifesto singles out education, innovation and productivity, and government policy, as being in need of improvement. The organisation predicts that 110,000 people will be needed to enter the technology sector each year over the next decade.
Lack of internal IT skills will force chief information officers to make more use of external IT providers, analyst firm Gartner has warned. It is advising IT departments to establish and recruit from outside the IT team, to support the changing role of IT in business. "Over the next two years, business demand for IT-driven growth and innovation will outstrip the supply of qualified people to fulfil job roles and, as a result, traditional IT tasks are moving outside the IT department," said Debra Logan, vice-president and distinguished analyst at Gartner.
The IT industry has continued to show recovery in the jobs market, with 40% of vacancies for senior IT positions in 2010 offering salaries of more than £150,000. A survey of senior executive vacancies with salaries of more than £100,000 by executive search firm Interexec found 40% of senior IT executive job positions were for salaries over £150,000, while 15% of positions were for salaries of £200,000. Financial services attributed to 29% of all senior IT positions.
As the IT industry re-emerges from the recession, IT spending is down but IT vacancies increased again in the third quarter, as a shortage of skills emerged in the UK. The number of vacancies in IT continued to grow in 2010 compared to 2009. With almost 90,000 job vacancies in the UK in the third quarter, Sid Barnes, executive director at Computer People, said companies made too many cutbacks last year, meaning more vacancies were being advertised post-recession. "There is a glut of vacancies but not enough people to do those jobs," said Barnes.
Following the A-level results, GCSE results confirmed industry fears that the UK is not producing the new IT talent needed in the sector. Industry experts warned that the 17% drop in the number of students taking GCSE ICT compared with 2009 showed a worryingly low number of new entrants, despite the demand for IT staff in UK businesses.
The GCSE results confirmed the education system is failing to train young people for a future career in IT. "In order to compete in this technology-intensive global economy, we need an inspiring curriculum in schools that attracts increasing numbers of talented students into technology-related degrees and careers. The current IT curriculum is focused mainly on skills in the everyday use of IT and many young people believe a degree or career in IT will simply offer more of the same," said Karen Price, chief executive of e-skills UK.