Levels of training, pay and employment opportunities for the UK IT workforce have continued to worsen over the past few months, the latest industry figures reveal.
The gloomy snapshot of the UK’s ICT Labour Market emerged in the latest quarterly review from sector skills council, e-skills UK. It found that unemployment figures within the ICT industry rose to 5.8% in the first quarter of 2003, or 4.6% for those employed in an ICT role outside the industry. The UK average is 5.1%.
The trend was mirrored by a rise in redundancies of 2,000 among staff working for ICT firms compared with the previous quarter, with redundancies amongICT staff working for non-IT companies also up slightly to 10,000.
Rates of pay for both permanent and contract staff were also down on the previous quarter to £36,000 and £60,000 respectively.
Skills shortages also increased in some areas - most notably sales and technical IT skills - while levels of job-related training and education provision declined slightly in the quarter.
The number of staff in the ICT industry who had received training in the past four weeks fell for the third consecutive quarter to around 13% and is now around 2% below the UK average. The fall was most marked in the telecoms sector where the figure dropped by 5% to 14%.
There are also worrying signs that may of those qualified in IT are deserting the profession upon graduation. The e-skills survey bulletin found that 40% of workers with IT related degrees are not presently working in the industry, or never even worked in the sector.
“That figure of 40% is quite a concern for the industry. For the UK in general I think it’s important to turn around these people who have been trained up to enter the industry,” said Peter Hounsome, a researcher at e-skills UK.
“Overall the report shows that the industry is still facing a lot of problems, although there are some signs that things could be looking up. We’d hope we are on track for a recovery,” said Hounsome, although he said he had no idea when that recovery would come.
The e-skills Bulletin also identified a “slight” decline (3% or £75m) in private sector investment in IT hardware and software during the first quarter. The hardware market was hardest hit (down by £66m), while manufacturing was the sector most affected, with investment down £74m or 19% on the previous quarter.
Advertising for ICT staff registered by recruitment agencies declined following a brief increase in the first two months of the year, while telecom companies appear more optimistic about recruiting staff.