We must do more to develop IT talent, say industry figures

Following Computer Weekly's article about the two IT trainees facing unemployment as the Department for Work and Pensions pulls the plug on apprenticeship schemes, industry figureheads have voiced their opinions on talent management.

Following Computer Weekly's article about the two IT trainees facing unemployment as the Department for Work and Pensions pulls the plug on apprenticeship schemes, industry figureheads have voiced their opinions on talent management.

Chief information officer at Channel 4 Kevin Gallagher agreed that the industry needs to do more to develop skills internally as expectations on corporate technology are much higher, so it is essential to bring in fresh ideas and experiences from as diverse a pool as possible.

"At Channel 4 it's recognised that only by recruiting and developing people from a broad range of backgrounds and at different stages of their careers, will we get the talent we need to be successful," Gallagher told Computer Weekly.

"In IT we're making some small steps forward here. We've recently had a graduate intern confirmed as a permanent employee after a year with the development teams. We've also kicked off a scheme with local schools to encourage more young people into IT and are taking on two school leavers each year, sponsoring them through university while they work with us during the vacation periods," Gallagher said.

"There is a massive potential benefit for us in terms freshness of approach and talent. The first two have just started and we have great expectations that they will go on to have successful careers, ideally with Channel 4. I'm well aware that there are lots more to be done," he said.

Global CIO at Centrica Dave Bickerton echoed Gallagher's views and pointed out that British Gas is "actively seeking" to attract and train talented individuals who can contribute to its business from all sectors of the population.

"We are currently investigating how we can extend this approach into bringing future young talent into our IS community," Bickerton said.

GlaxoSmithKline's vice-president of application services John Harris found the situation of the DWP apprentices "a very moving story" and added that managing the pipeline of future talent is as critical as it ever has been.

"For IT leaders, there is a tightrope to be walked between the necessary short term measures to meet savings targets and the need to retain and grow the ongoing capability for success in the future," said Harris.

"It is not just the current economic climate that is driving the changes. The industry is already striving to figure out the impact of new service models such as cloud technology, respond to the demands for consumerisation and maintain the right balance around in house and offshore sourcing models," he added.

"It may be tough, we do need to ensure that we continue to find opportunities for people at the start of their careers, whether it is apprenticeships, industrial placements or graduate training programs, these are the routes through which different thinking - the Generation Y - enters the organisation."

The DWP apprentices have become victims of their own success, said David Roberts, executive director at blue-chip user group The Corporate IT Forum.

"Yes indeed, very unfortunate for these lads to find themselves without full-time paid employment but in a way they are now at the head of the queue. They have very modern, very relevant skills and experience plus the competitive edge of youth," said Roberts.

"My own early days in computing included four jobs ending in redundancy with several months in dole queues being patient but constantly plugging away at any opportunity to work. Some forty years later, I'm responsible for a computing related training and education company that numbers many of the UK's larger businesses as its customers," he said.

"Did it come easy? No! It came to me and many others like me by grafting away at chasing opportunities - some of them imaginary! But that is life and learning."

According to Carrie Hartnell, head of industry strategy at technology trade group Intellect, the cases highlighted in the article are positive because both apprentices have managed to gain that all important experience from their time at DWP.

"[But] it is a shame that they will not be able to be kept on within the government, especially at a time when innovation and new technologies will help find both savings and improved across public services," said Hartnell.

"It is important that in these more cost saving times that industry and government don't throw away the talent that could help reach their targets. However, it is also important to ensure that there is a balance," she said.

"Research shows that diverse teams and workforces bring out the best innovative ideas and products. New talent need experience to ensure that lessons learnt aren't forgotten."

Sector skills council e-Skills UK, whose purpose is to "create a skills pool in the UK that enables the unrestricted growth of IT and Telecoms, with the whole economy benefiting from the opportunities offered by technology exploitation," refused to comment.

"I'm afraid we are unable to comment on individual cases such as these," a spokesperson for e-Skills said.

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