Resellers move to plug skills gap

The question of how to address the skills shortage in the IT industry has been exercising some of the best minds in the channel for the past 18 months and now potential answers are emerging at a reseller level.

The question of how to address the skills shortage in the IT industry has been exercising some of the best minds in the channel for the past 18 months and now potential answers are emerging at a reseller level.

Up to date the vendors had been taking the lead with one of the most high profile being Cisco, which has been taking a series of approaches ranging from online job boards to increasing the profile for its networking academies.

The reason why the skills gap matters so much was spelt out by Thierry Drilhon, vice president of channels for European markets at Cisco, who has repeatedly pointed out that the lack of qualified engineers in the channel will hold up not just the vendor's growth ambitions but also the speed with which customers adopt emerging technology (MicroScope 17 September 2007).

But, in the past week the baton to find ways of plugging the skills gap has been picked up by resellers that have responded to the lack of talent by going out to find it off their own backs.

Glasshouse kicked off the second wave of its Academy, which takes in batches of six apprentices, and 2e2 announced plans to turn to school children to find inspiration from generation Y.

David Docherty, professional services director at Glasshouse, said that most of the CVs that came through were failing to hit the mark.

"We found the general recruitment process was tired and although it was buoyant it was hard to find good resources and the same CVs were always going around," he said.

He added that there was no formal ICT apprenticeship so it had felt the need to set one up itself.

The Glasshouse Academy started four months ago to find staff for Glasshouse but already Docherty said it had received interest from customers raising the prospect of the same process being used to produce recruits for their businesses.

In the case of 2e2 the decision to reach out for young talent was because it made sense to get someone in from the generation living and breathing web collaboration to have a look at the approach the company was taking.

"We are going into schools and colleges and through the process of a competition to get the best and the brightest that will have access to our board and business," he said.

"What we want from this is an understanding of how the collaboration tools that have been adopted in the consumer space can be applied to our market," he added.

Other potential answers coming out of the software development field have a collaborative feel tapping into the talents of users.

"If we are short of 140,000 IT professionals a year, would we be closer to a solution if we could make new entrants four times more productive? If this could be done then we'd only need 35,000 graduates a year. Improving productivity is something that IT has done for many tasks and jobs since its creation, yet why do we think it can't help solve problems within IT itself?" asked Dharmesh Mistry, CTO of edge IPK.

"We need more software companies to focus on real productivity tools for the masses rather than enriching development for the niche programmer market. We need end user companies to adopt more innovative approaches such as end user development (EUD) than relying on armies of programmers," he added.

Meanwhile the Forum of Private Business has called on the government to increase its support for smaller companies as part of its consultative process for the proposed Higher Education at Work - High Skills: High Value Bill.

An FPB spokesman said that the quality of school leavers was not up to scratch and it had called on the proposed changes to the law to take this into account.

"We have lobbied long and hard to have business skills and are continually told by members that are getting school leavers that they don't have the business acumen to hit the ground running and help the business," he said.

In its submission as part of the consultation process the FPB quoted Richard Brown, chief executive of the Council for Industry and Higher Education, who commented last month that the computer skills that were in demand from businesses were not being met by the mix of skills being supplied by universities.

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