UK employers need about 150,000 new IT professionals each year, but only 25,640 computer science graduates were due to enter the market this year. The British Computer Society said the drop in numbers was potentially very damaging for small and medium-sized firms.
Three or four years ago, graduate spaces at LogicaCMG could have been filled several times over, said Gary Argent, UK graduate recruitment manager at the firm. But the decline in graduate numbers, combined with an increase in demand, means the company is struggling to fill its 200 annual graduate spaces.
"Recruiting is getting difficult because fewer students are signing up to IT degrees, and more employers are looking for IT staff," said Argent. "There are still good students out there, but it is increasingly difficult to find them."
Thirteen A-level recruits started in September this year, and the company will take on 20 next year.
Under the scheme, A-level students enrol on a part-time degree course. They study for a BA in management (information systems) at the University of Winchester one day a week. Their contract requires them to stay at LogicaCMG for three years after completing their degree.
The company pays all course costs, including course materials, and provides the students with a laptop.
"It is a risk that they will leave after the three years, but the people who go through this will be the high-fliers and the managers of the future, and hopefully they won't even think of leaving," said Argent.
"Most of the other employers I speak to have a similar experience. We are all facing the same sort of challenges."
David Evans, government relations manager at the BCS, said, "Competition for recruiting the best graduates will heat up as the numbers leaving university with a computing degree falls off. Large private sector organisations can compete, but for small business and the public sector, this drop off will be potentially very damaging."