Who wants to employ IT professionals any more?

IT professionals could be forgiven for being somewhat unsure about who they are likely to be working for in future.

Take this selection of quotes from the past week alone:

“There has been a general reduction in [public sector] IT staff, but some areas will need to be beefed up,” said government efficiency adviser Martin Read.

“[We need to be] recognising the need for expertise in-house and not saying that we have outsourced and so we do not need those skills anymore,” Professor Helen Margetts, from the Oxford Internet Institute told MPs on a select committee.

“Generally, ICT technical skills will reside elsewhere in commissioned services,” said a Socitm report on the future of public sector IT.

Add these conflicting statements to many others made about the future of the IT department in recent months and you can only reach one conclusion: There will be more outsourcing and less outsourcing, and there will be a greater need for in-house IT staff as well as a lesser need for in-house IT staff.

Confused? You should be.

The only certainty we can conclude is that the role of in-house IT professionals is being traded and discussed like a commodity as organisations in every sector search for more ways to cut costs. Shall we outsource them? Yeah, it’s only the IT department.

It is increasingly clear that IT teams are entering something of a perfect storm, with job cuts, outsourcing, and the cloud diminishing their value in the eyes of senior executives, while IT innovation and consumerisation of technology make their skills and experience ever more important to corporate success.

In some cases, IT professionals who have always looked on IT suppliers as the “dark side” are turning to those same suppliers for employment – often with rewarding results.  

But the Socitm report mentioned above made another interesting prediction: “IT professionals have historically looked to their employer to provide them with career development; this will stop.”

No job, no training, no prospects? No. It is certainly not the case that the need for IT professionals will go away. But the difficult truth is that IT experts will have to take more control of their own career and skills development and justify the value they deliver to their employers. 

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More and more it makes you wonder why you bother. And yet, despite SOCITM's comments and the conclusion of the editorial of "no job, no training, no prospects", how many of us are going to continue to be judged by how long we remain in a position whilst trying to develop and further our own career prospects and employability?
With continually rising IT security threats and ongoing innovation in IT, businesses are more reliant now than ever on skilled IT workers. But demand is exceeding supply as many IT workers are joining the industry are lacking specific skills to meet the requirements of different types of IT within varying types of businesses.

The problem lies in the fact that there are numerous standards, qualifications, certificates and exams that already exist throughout the industry and this is exactly the point. Clear direction is required to create a standardised, industry norm to start reducing the skills gap that has emerged throughout the UK infrastructure.

With businesses constantly reviewing outsourcing options, it is vital to address the skills gap problem in order for UK IT professionals to justify their value to their employers. If individuals are responsible for taking control of their career and skills development to prove their worth to existing or potential employers, then steps should be taken to ensure that a standardised level of quality and delivery are achieved to enable IT professionals to bridge the gap and avoid the threat of outsourcing.

Tony Glass
Sales director, SkillSoft EMEA