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UK needs training tax breaks to avert skills shortage, warns Imis

Bill Goodwin

Published last week, the Imis skills trend report concluded that the shortfall threatens to derail major IT projects, as government departments vie with the private sector for a limited pool of skilled staff.

"The private sector needs to recruit project and programme managers, but there will be an awful crisis in this area. If companies want these skills they have to set about developing them now," said the report's author, Imis strategic adviser Philip Virgo.

Imis is calling for the government to kick-start 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, said she would welcome government support, either through tax breaks or subsidised training.

"I think there need 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, said Imis.

Without incentives, the UK faces an IT "skills crunch" by 2012, as work on the Olympics, the government's ID card programme, the NHS IT modernisation and transformational government plans soak up supplies of skilled IT managers, Imis warned.

"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 for the benefits to 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 added.


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