UK IT managers: you need to help government understand the skills you need. Here's how...

Having trouble recruiting IT professionals? If so, the government wants your help.

Most IT managers that Computer Weekly talks to have some form of skills shortages in their teams, and struggle to bring in new staff with the modern digital skills they need. The industry, through bodies such as TechUK and the BCS, has been warning government for years of a looming crisis where the ability of UK companies to exploit the latest digital techniques and technologies will be hindered by a lack of available skills.

A report by tech think-tank Coadec earlier this year suggested the UK will have 800,000 unfilled IT jobs by 2020. Action is urgently needed and Brexit will only accentuate the problem – especially given our current reliance on foreign-born tech expertise, which makes up 18% of the UK IT workforce.

This is not only a problem concerning people who work in IT – it affects the competitiveness of every company, and the ability of every public body to deliver cost-effective and efficient services. We already know that the digital skills gap costs the UK economy £63bn a year. As the digital revolution affects ever more areas of our lives and work, that’s only going to increase if we can’t develop the talent we need and fill the jobs that digital will demand.

In response, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) wants to gather more information on what it calls “advanced and specialist digital skills” – which in everyday English means the regular IT department roles carried out in every organisation across the country.

DCMS is running a survey to capture data on the skills needs of companies – the jobs you are finding hard to fill; the skills you need; and the causes of the problems faced by employers of IT professionals. Every IT manager should complete the survey on behalf of their organisation.

It’s too early to know what the government will do as a result of this initiative – but it’s vital they get a broad and accurate picture of the state of IT skills.

Cynics might say, it’s all too little, too late – and they would have a point. But it’s also a rare opportunity for IT leaders to influence government policy and to help clarify the recruitment and skills challenges that threaten to hold back the digital economy – and your IT department.

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