The Government has been urged to give its backing to a scheme that promises to radically simplify the way that employers and universities assess the IT skills of their staff and students.
The Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA) aims to create the IT profession's first industry-wide definition of the skills needed by IT employers at every level in an organisation.
The framework promises to allow organisations to find the right skills they have in-house and could help provide a detailed analysis of the UK's IT skills shortage. It will end years of confusion for employers that, until now, have had no easy way of matching employees' job titles and qualifications with their actual IT skills.
The Government's Central IT Unit (Citu) has urged all government departments and agencies to take up the framework as a way of ensuring that they have the right skills to manage IT projects.
It forms part of a concerted effort, outlined in a Cabinet Office report earlier this month, to avoid the problems that have dogged recent government IT projects such as those at the Passport Office and the Post Office.
SFIA will enable government departments and private sector employees to identify precisely what IT skills their organisations have, what additional skills need to be brought in and what training existing IT staff need.
Citu is also urging the Government to incorporate SFIA into its own statistics to provide a nationwide picture of what IT skills are in short supply. This could be used by universities and employers to prioritise training needs.
The Post Office, one of several organisations piloting the framework, said that SFIA will help it to make sure it has people with the right skills. "The Post Office is an IT user and it wants to be an informed IT user. It wants to be able to go to suppliers and make sure the supplier has the right kind of skills," said John Coffey, a Post Office consultant.
SFIA will also allow the Post Office to use its existing IT skills more efficiently. In the past, managers have hired IT consultants, unaware that the Post Office already had the skills needed in-house, said Coffey.
EDS and IBM have also piloted the new framework.