The government must offer training tax breaks to IT professionals and employers, if the UK is to avoid a year 2000 style skills shortage by 2012, an influential industry body warned last week.
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The Institute for the Management of Information Systems said that without a heavy investment in training, the UK will face critical shortages of project and programme managers within six years.
The shortfall threatens to derail major public and private sector IT projects, as government departments vie with the private sector for a limited pool of skilled staff, the IMIS skills trend report published last week concludes.
“The private sector needs to recruit project and programme managers, but there will be a godawful crisis in this area. If companies want these skills they have to set about developing them now,” said the reports author, Philip Virgo.
IMIS is calling for the government to kickstart training programmes for the next generation of project and programme managers, by offering employers tax and national insurance breaks while their staff are on full time training courses.
E-skills UK, the sector skills council for IT, backed IMIS this week with calls for more government support for training IT professionals.
Karen Price, chief executive of E-skills UK, said she would welcome government support for training IT professionals, either through tax breaks or subsidised training.
“I think there needs to be incentives for individuals and employers to support the acute shortages we see in the nation,” she said.
The UK, which is at the bottom of the OECD league tables for workforce qualifications, is alone in its failure to offer tax incentives to employers to develop existing staff, according to IMIS.
Without incentives, the UK faces an IT “skills crunch” by 2012, as work on the Olympics, the ID card programme, the NHS, and transitional government, soak up suppliers of skilled IT managers, IMIS claims.
The UK could face “a digital winter of discontent during the run up to the next general election,” said Virgo. Price said universities were trying to plug some of the gaps but warned it would be some years before the benefits filter out to industry.
“I think we have made really good traction in terms of working with the education system to better prepare young people for the skills that are needed today. But it will be some time before they hit the market place,” she said.
“We are back in another growth cycle that will lead to an acute skills shortage, but we have survived them in the past,” she said.