Employers' failure to train perpetuates skills shortage

High-tech employers are perpetuating the skills shortage by failing to cross-train experienced IT staff in e-commerce skills, it...

High-tech employers are perpetuating the skills shortage by failing to cross-train experienced IT staff in e-commerce skills, it was claimed this week.

Bill Goodwin

IT professionals with 10 or 15 years' experience risk being pushed out of the jobs market because their employers are not willing to invest in continued training, according to the Institute for the Management of Information Systems (Imis), which represents 11,000 IT professionals.

Speaking on the eve of a major IT skills summit, Imis' strategic advisor Philip Virgo said that too many employers only offer cross-training in new IT skills to a select group of high-flying IT professionals. This has left many experienced professionals with increasingly outdated skills.

"What appears to be happening is that those flagged as high-flyers get the cross-training. Those who are not high-flyers or not in employment cannot get the training unless they pay for it themselves," said Virgo.

Even when staff are able to pay for their own training, employers' need for staff with two or three years' experience in the latest skills means that it is often difficult for otherwise experienced professionals to find work.

Computer Weekly regularly receives letters from IT professionals who have invested in training courses in only to find that employers are unwilling to hire them because they lack relevant experience.

In one case, an experienced ITworker who took a year out from leading-edge IT work to fix Y2K problems on legacy systems sent out more than 1,400 unsuccessful applications. Potential employers said that his skills were a year out of date.

The skills summit, organised by IT lobby group Eurim, takes place next Monday (26 March). It aims to bring employers, training organisations and universities together to establish the extent of the problem and to work on potential solutions.

One of its aims will be to find ways to encourage employers to offer more work experience and on-the-job training to existing staff and job hunters.

"Employees undergoing training should be exempt from national insurance and income tax. It could make a very big difference to the cost of structured work experience," said Virgo.

The chancellor Gordon Brown indicated his willingness to consider tax incentives for training in the budget earlier this month.

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