The UK IT skills crisis - Essential Guide

Ten frequently asked questions about the IT skills crisis, including whether or not the credit crunch is making it worse.

Ten frequently asked questions about the IT skills crisis

  1. Does the IT skills shortage affect all parts of the IT industry?
  2. How big is the IT skills crisis?
  3. What are the skills in most demand?
  4. What can be done to solve the problem?
  5. Is it only technical skills in short supply?
  6. How do I acquire soft skills?
  7. How do I find training courses that can help me learn new skills?
  8. What about project management skills - where do I get them?
  9. What about business skills for CIOs - how do I get them?
  10. What about the credit crunch? Is this making the skills crisis worse?


1. Does the IT skills shortage affect all parts of the IT industry?

Yes, different parts of the IT industry have at some point over the past few years experienced difficulties in getting the right mix of skills. Although a relatively small number of businesses report difficulties finding staff, many appear to be "making do" with staff whose skills are not quite right.

This can be seen from recent examples from the Video games industry, Cisco's moves to address networking skills shortages, and the news earlier in 2008 that one in three companies is reporting IT skills shortfalls. It's not just the private sector that are outsourcing to overcome the skills crisis and reduce costs, but also the public sector, as the government's CIO John Suffolk explained in a conference in early 2008.

2. How big is the IT skills crisis?

IT sector skills council E-Skills UK says the industry needs about 140,000 entrants each year. Last year, there were 16,440 computer science graduates, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, leaving a shortfall of 120,000 per annum, meaning that the UK industry would be short of 1.2 million IT skilled workers, if they weren't found from outside the UK.

3. What are the skills in most demand?

Three quarters of IT managers site the need for network security and data security skills as currently most important skills.

Some technical skills have been in short supply recently, such as Microsoft .net skills. Keeping up with the change in demand can be hard, but ComputerWeekly's and Salary Services Ltd's quarterly analysis of the jobs market gives some good pointers as to whats happening in the market. To see all our quarterly IT Salary Surveys follow the link.

skills table

4. What can be done to solve the problem?

One answer is in-house training. Employers are sometimes criticised for not investing more in training staff themselves.E-Skills UK recently implored employers to retrain their staff to avoid a skills crisis

Another option is to employ graduates from other disciplines, but IT has a dull and unexciting image and finds it hard to attract graduates from other sectors.

Philip Virgo blogs on the UK IT skills crisis and offers some useful advice on how you can help to raise the importance of this issue.

If you want more information on this issue, the E-Skills UK report: IT and Telecoms Insights 2008 is a good place to start.

5. Is it only technical skills in short supply?

Although there is a shortage of computer science graduates, those who do have an IT-related degree can find getting a job difficult. IT departments often want staff with knowledge of how businesses work, and soft skills such as communication, as well as the traditional technical skills which computer science degrees provide.

If you want to measure the effectiveness of soft skills training this article from Personnel Today offers some help.

6. How do I acquire soft skills?

These articles give you an insight into what you can do to improve your soft skills.

When soft becomes hard for IT experts>>

Soft skills and hard facts>>

Future proof with a broader set of skills>>

This website helps you find out about corporate soft skills training seminars and courses.

7. How do I find training courses that can help me learn new skills?

The best place to find training courses in your local area is probably the E-Skills UK training course finder. This allows you to search for national training courses and has an employer and employee setting, so it could be useful for IT managers too.

For career advice the British Computer Society's Inside Careers is also a great resource that can help you with career advice, company profiles and training courses, but you will have to register to get to this information.

8. What about project management skills - where do I get them?

As businesses outsource more IT work, and work with more external suppliers, UK IT departments increasingly require project managers to co-ordinate different teams. So developing skills to survive offshoring challenge, maybe worth considering.

Online project management training offers some help in this area.

9. What about business skills for CIOs - how do I get them?

The emphasis on business skills is especially true for IT directors and chief information officers, who are increasingly wanting to get onto company boards.

Here are eight top tips for being an effective CIO and a look at how the role of the CIO is changing.

Today's CIO's also need strategies to survive in an economically uncertain world.

And if you work for a global company. then this article offers advice on how to manage a globalised IT workforce.

Useful advice from other CIOs

10. What about the credit crunch? Is this making the skills crisis worse?

The high demand for IT staff means the sector has so far not been hit by the credit crunch as hard as some industries and our IT salary survey earlier this year predicted a strong market for IT jobs this year. The most recent salary survey noted plenty of jobs but that pay growth was slowing.

Useful links

You can find more information on training and careers at the following websites:

Online project management training>>

E-Learning Center>>

National IT Learning Centre>>

IT career advice in London>>

British Computer Society careers page>>

eFinancial Careers>>


Read more on IT technical skills