Microsoft, Logica, IBM and Nortel were among those who signed the E-Skills Employers Charter, which has backing from the Government and employers. The charter is the latest in a series of initiatives designed to encourage more people to join the IT profession. The industry will need an estimated one million extra trained professionals within the next five years, according to research released this week.
The charter forms part of the E-Skills National Training Organisation's three-year strategic skills plan, which aims to galvanise employers, suppliers and the Government into finding solutions for the UK's shortage of e-business skills.
The charter commits employers to review their recruitment practices in an attempt to encourage more women, older workers, young people and ethnic minorities into the profession. It calls for companies to rethink the wording they use in job advertisements, which is often off-putting to women and reinforces the professions "nerdy" image.
The charter also encourages firms to work with schools to find ways of inspiring young people to go into the IT profession and work with the media to dispel the negative stereotypes about IT workers.
Research commissioned by the E-Skills NTO to coincide with the charter's launch found that the number of people coming into IT is restricted because employers focus their recruitment efforts almost exclusively on young male graduates.
"It is not surprising that we have a shortage of IT workers when employers are only recruiting from half the potential talent. Raising the number of women in IT jobs will have a dramatic effect," said e-minister Patricia Hewitt.
The charter will be seen as an attempt inject new impetus into the government-backed Alan Stevens Report, which laid down a 16-point action plan to tackle the skills shortage at the end of 1999.
This week, Stevens said the report, which is a year behind schedule, had set over-optimistic targets. He added that many companies had been too busy with the after effects of Y2K and the dotcom phenomenon to give their full support to its proposals.
"We studied the thing to death. We worked on the problem through the National Skills Taskforce in 1998. We worked through my group in 1999. We all had a year off in 2000. Now we are all back on the job again in 2001 to fix it," Stevens said.
For more information on the E-Skills Employers Charter e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Firms who back the e-skills pledge