IT pros call for more government action over skills

With memories of the economic downturn fading, demand for IT services continues to grow, but some IT pros feel not enough is being done

Just last year, the government announced that it would spend £52m on new and emerging science talent, and promised to deliver more than 7,800 STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education and training opportunities over a two-year period. The goal was to encourage more youngsters to consider careers in these industries.

According to research published this week by IT event organiser IP EXPO Europe, professionals in the IT sector aren’t convinced that this is enough. Of the 500 UK IT pros questioned as part of its latest survey, 75% said they thought the government needed to do more.

It seems opinions vary in strength across different parts of the country too, although the general consensus is clear. Almost nine in 10 (86%) IT professionals in the East Midlands, for example, said the government needed to invest more in its STEM push, followed by 83% of respondents in Wales and 71% in Northern Ireland.

The government’s initiatives did receive some praise in the poll. In England’s North East, for example, 23% of respondents said they thought enough was being done. Buti it’s clear that there’s still plenty of room for improvement.

IP EXPO Europe’s director of strategy, Bradley Maule-ffinch, said of the results: “It’s disappointing that businesses don’t feel the Government is spending enough on STEM initiatives. These jobs are high in demand and vital in boosting the UK economy so the Government must do more to boost recruitment into these professions.”

According to director of education programs at Cloudera, one of the exhibitors at next month’s IP EXPO Europe, the widening skills gap is negatively impacting progress in the tech sector. Mark Morrissey said: "There is increased competition to recruit technical talent that inhibits the market growth of several new, disruptive technologies.”

Adding to this, he said the responsibility to come up with a solution lies in more than one place: "Government, industry, and academia need to find avenues of collaboration to highlight the benefits of an IT related education, and help provide access to the training necessary to pursue STEM related careers."

It’s no secret that the gap’s impact is being felt right across the IT sector, but some businesses are definitely feeling it more than others. Much of this is linked to spending power, with larger budgets allowing bigger firms to identify and hire the top talent. Small and medium-sized enterprises, on the other hand, are left to find other ways to expand their workforces and keep up.

With the top talent often out of reach for smaller businesses, the re-training of existing staff has been suggested in the past as a viable solution to the shortage, with the head of KPMG’s Cyber Security Academy saying back in July that upskilling is “arguably cheaper than hiring skilled staff from outside.”

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