IT Works: Information technology offers the greatest opportunity for employment and entrepreneurship

With ‘A’ Level and GCSE results coming out students will be contemplating whether further education and spending £50,000 on an undergraduate course is worthwhile. It is hard to see how they will ever get a return on that investment – or even pay back the loan.
The number of new recruits in IT has been in decline for some years and there is no indication this year will be any different. But in the UK, one in 20 people work in IT and unemployment for IT staff has now dropped to 3.1%, compared to 8.3% for the overall workforce. Four out of five jobs require IT skills. Unemployment is rising and yet there is still an IT skills shortage, says Gordon Frazer, UK managing director of Microsoft.  So why not consider a career in IT?
IT both empowers and is itself a stimulus for innovation.
Cost of entry is low, so there are plenty of opportunities for entrepreneurship through innovative use of technology. Take a look at the mobile apps marketplaces and the myriad website businesses to experience entrepreneurship empowered by IT.  You do not need much capital to get started, says Fiona Timothy, chairman of the Prince’s Trust Technology Leadership group.Moreover, IT is no longer just about getting your hands dirty with programming,
She recalls how a young man, from a less advantaged background, taught himself IT and is now running a company with eight staff specialising in building e-commerce websites.
The Prince’s Trust provides loans and mentoring to young people looking to take their business ideas to the next level.

Formal IT training isn’t always necessary – or desirable – to secure a job. Business leaders, frustrated by the lack of business nous and practical skills of school-leavers, are running internships and apprenticeship programmes. For instance, Computer repair company D&J Henry  says business has grown five-fold after hiring apprentices to give recruits on-the-job training.

Such programmes fill the void left by what critics describe as an inadequate education system that fails to inspire or prepare young people for work in a commercially led organisation.
For further education, the sandwich-type course is attractive to employers.
Nick Wilson, UK managing director at HP, says he needs skilled people but does not want to spend three years training someone – which he says often happens with graduates who have completed undergraduate courses with no hands-on industry exposure. HP itself has an active internship programme and actively recruits from this pool of talent, as well as hiring graduates who have opted for a year in industry.

Over the coming months Computer Weekly will be looking at all aspects of IT training, development and job prospects. IT is a great career and we believe IT will fuel the UK’s future economic growth.

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