IT skills crisis makes pay the top priority

With skills shortages starting to grow again as e-commerce and other projects are launched after the year 2000 hiatus, nearly 60%...

With skills shortages starting to grow again as e-commerce and other projects are launched after the year 2000 hiatus, nearly 60% of managers questioned for training specialist NETg see high pay as the key to keeping IT staff, writes John Kavanagh.

Indeed, 61% believe rising salaries are one of the main effects of the growing gap between IT skills supply and demand.

This return to 1980s thinking is further reflected in the finding that only 1- in-10 IT directors sees training as an effective way to keep staff. Although 80% think easier access to training, for example through computer-based methods, would help.

In addition, despite demand from staff for supplier qualifications from the likes of Microsoft and Novell, only 8% of IT directors currently believe that offering certified training would help to retain staff. In fact, 60% do not think it is important to employ certified staff.

All the IT directors surveyed are finding it hard to recruit staff, especially those with networking and certain programming skills - and 75% of them believe this is hitting competitiveness. More than half are suffering delays in important projects. And 52% say they are losing profits as a direct result.

"The IT skills gap continues to be a problem, but nothing concrete seems to be being done to solve it," says NETg director Pam Burton.

"Our survey shows that the lack of skilled IT people is affecting profits and overall business success. This will continue unless better training is provided. Training must not be seen as an inconvenience. We have to realise that providing effective training is critical to business success, which increasingly depends on highly productive skilled people."

Lack of attention to training is underlined by the finding that only 8% of IT directors currently tailor it to individual's needs, even though more than three-quarters believe that better targeting would help people learn more. Standard classroom training off-site is still the most popular.

Lack of end-user training is also hitting IT departments, the study shows.

"Users are having to regularly call IT departments with simple queries," Burton says. "More than 95% of IT departments have to deal with user problems that should have been covered on training courses".

The survey also highlights a communications gap between IT and personnel departments.

Despite the shortages problem revealed by the IT directors questioned, 36% of personnel directors are completely unaware of the concept of the IT skills gap.

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