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India shows UK students are missing a trick with IT

UK students could be looking a gift horse in the mouth by ignoring IT careers in favour of professions viewed as more exciting and rewarding.

Despite the abundance of IT skills following thousands of redundancies, demand for IT staff is expected to pick up, leading to further IT skills shortages in the future.

India has been free of British rule for a shade over 60 years. In this time it has laid the foundations for a deep pool of talent that can support its IT industry several times over.

While UK students find IT a turn-off their Indian counterparts aspire to establish themselves in an industry that they see as the leading profession.

A combination of citizens' aspirations, government investment since independence, and IT's positive image in India has meant that while the UK has reported shortages of key IT skills, India has a massive oversupply.

Companies like IT outsourcing service provider Infosys claims to be able to take the cream of the talent available.

BG Srinivas, European head at Infosys, says the company gets about a million job applications every year. "Last year we recruited a total of 25,000 people," he says. This means the top 2.5% of a million IT graduates applying to Infosys got the job they applied for. The proportion of applicants that get jobs is likely to fall even lower as a result of falling demand during the economic slowdown.

He said engineering is the most popular profession among Indian students and these professionals are easily transferable to IT, which offers a better career path. "The preferred profession for top students in India is engineering, followed by medical, science and commerce. With over 2,000 engineering institutes which produce over 600,000 engineers in India every year, this discipline is a very popular choice for most Indians."

"The opportunities and career progression are relatively quicker in IT industry, as compared to core engineering or public sector, because of steady accelerated growth in IT Industry in India as seen in the last 10 years," he said.

Students with no computer science background often move into IT to work with global IT organisations, as these are "aspiration employers that also provide a great amount of training to new hires."

In contrast, research last year from Career Development Organisation (CDO) revealed that over 60% of non-computing students in the UK do not wish to enter the sector because they think it will be boring.

Srinivas said the Indian government has played its part. In the initial years, post independence, there was a significant investment in building Indian Institutes of Technology. "This has lead to a good educational foundation and later helped other institutes to emulate the quality and provide leading IT role models," he said. "In the last decade, the government has encouraged private entities to set up Educational Institutions by providing land at a nominal price."


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