IT directors called upon to help drive youngsters into IT

E-Skills UK chief Karen Price has called upon IT directors to help several major government-backed IT skills initiatives to...

E-Skills UK chief Karen Price has called on IT directors to help several major government-backed IT skills initiatives to attract and develop youngsters to become the next generation of IT professionals.

The initiatives, just taking hold in the secondary school and university systems, address the current reluctance of graduates to enter IT and to make computer courses more relevant to the mixed demands of today’s business environment.

Speaking at a British Computer Society Elite meeting for IT directors, Price asked IT directors to take advantage of E-Skills UK’s support infrastructure to buddy with their local schools, provide short term placements for students, support the new specialist diplomas mooted for IT and think about using key universities as sources of continual professional development  rather than commercial training organisations.

“With a little collective effort employers can make a difference and turn around UK plc,” she said.

Price warned that the number of young people on computer science courses has plummeted from 29,000 in 2000 to 18,000 in 2003, and that the gender imbalance is getting worse, with a 5% decline in women in IT over the past five years.

One area where IT directors can help is with E-Skills UK’s current expansion of its evening IT clubs for girls in schools. Pilot work has had outstanding success, with 66% of the 4,000 schoolgirls who have taken part so far reporting that they now want to work in technology.

The scheme is being rolled out to 3,600 school this year and the aim is to have 150,000 girls taking part by 2008.

“We are looking for links with employers to buddy up with their local schools on a volunteer basis to help support them,” she said. “There is no hassle involved. E-Skills UK provides off-the-shelf support packages.”

Another area where Price sought help from IT directors, particularly with providing work placement, is with a new hybrid IT/business skills degree programme which gets underway in 2006. This degree, initially for 1,000 students and with financial incentives for them to take part, comprises four equal components: technology; management; business; and soft skills.

Other initiatives for which E-Skills UK is seeking support from IT directors is a new modular specialist diploma in IT for 14 to 19-year-olds that combines academic and vocational qualifications with employability skills such as customer services and communication, which kicks off this September.

E-Skills UK is an employer-owned body licensed by government to address IT professional skills issues.

Its user board, chaired by government chief information officer Ian Watmore, comprises CIOs of major user organisations, such as British Airways, Ford and BP. Its IT supplier board, chaired by IBM UK chief executive Larry Hearst, is made up of chief executives of major IT suppliers.

For more information on these initiatives and how you can help see: www.e-skills.com/SSA.

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