Every computer journal I read, supported by fat reports from the likes of IDC, predicts that the IT skills shortage will continue indefinitely - and, frankly, I'm not surprised. IT and HR managers depend too much on recruitment firms instead of looking laterally at their payroll needs and allocating roles accordingly.
We addressed our own skills shortage by analysing the tasks carried out, for example, by highly paid engineers who install and maintain PC networks.
We decided that 65% of what they did could be done by junior people. So we trained unemployed people and gave them an IT career path.
Out of a total payroll of just over 50, about 14 formerly unemployed trainees have been taken on. Highly paid, fully qualified staff can now concentrate on more fulfilling (and profitable) tasks.
Some former trainees have earned the right to join them on site at our customers' premises, fully equipped with technical and communications skills.
The support we have received from organisations like London First, Tomorrow's People and Lewisham College has led the top decision-makers of the "New Deal" to adopt this approach for their own objectives - and incorporate IT qualifications into that scheme for the first time.
By changing our own management style to tackle the challenges of taking on unemployed newcomers we have eliminated our skills problem, cut recruitment fees drastically, increased profitability and gave unemployed people a new start.
This model can be applied to any company of any size in any industry - but particularly IT, where the skills debate must be the longest running scream in business history.
Roy Charles is managing director of Advanced Systems & Support
This was first published in September 2000