IT chiefs pledge to fund skills shortage research

Attempts by employers to find a solution to the UK's shortage of skilled e-commerce staff gained momentum this week, when the...

Attempts by employers to find a solution to the UK's shortage of skilled e-commerce staff gained momentum this week, when the UK's leading IT professionals agreed to fund new research into the problem.

Bill Goodwin

The Real Time Club (RTC), a group of 150 senior IT managers and suppliers, has agreed to back rapid-turnaround research into the UK's IT education system.

The project aims to create the UK's first comprehensive database of IT courses and degrees - a move that will help students and employers navigate through a bewildering list of courses and qualifications.

The move comes in response to concerns that employers are finding it difficult to assess the relevance of an estimated 800 IT qualifications, many with widely different content but confusingly similar titles.

The RTC is hoping to persuade employers to back this and other practical projects rather than spend time and money simply talking about the issues.

"So many people are talking, making recommendations and going around in small circles but very few are actually doing something. We are saying 'let's get on and do things'," said Charles Ross, president of the RTC.

The RTC hopes to produce the database within three months. The organisation will seek further funding to host and maintain the database on the Internet, where it can be viewed by students and employers.

The RTC is also seeking backing from employers for longer-term research that could help companies and universities identify youngsters with a natural flair for programming or leadership in the IT profession.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that some of the brightest programmers and entrepreneurs were seen as failures at school and that many lack formal qualifications. If these people can be identified and channelled into the profession, it could open up new sources of IT talent for employers, Ross believes.

"Can we learn how to identify good people, how to develop skills? Is there a group of people who have the skills but don't know it? If it is true there may be a substantial pool that we are not using," said Ross.

Want to get involved? Contact the RTC through

BasilCousins@compuserve.com

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