The UK will be short of over 82,000 network professionals by next year and over 100,000 by 2004, as companies turn to the Internet to cut purchasing costs and streamline their operations.
Recent job cuts by telecoms companies such as Cisco and Nortel have done little to stifle the demand for network staff. Most lay-offs have been from sales or other departments.
A growing number of businesses are using networking technology to link to their suppliers and business partners, driving up the demand for network specialists.
However, the shortages are likely to be far worse in other countries, particularly in Belgium and Southern Europe. Germany is forecast to have an expected 37% shortfall in network professionals by 2004.
In Western Europe the shortage of skilled network professionals will grow from 226,618 this year to 548,336, by 2004, according to analyst firm IDC.
The early adoption of the application service provider model and Web hosting services, and the readiness of firms to outsource, means that demand for network staff is not as great as it could have been in the UK.
The UK's relaxation of immigration restrictions, combined with policies to encourage training, mean that supply will begin to match demand in the long term, said IDC.
IDC's findings mirror those of the Computer Weekly/SSP survey, which found that network and communications specialists now account for 10% of the IT jobs advertised compared to 5% a year ago.