Your shout: Skills gap and racism

Computer Weekly readers' have their say

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Computer Weekly readers have their say

Employers should train to bridge skills gap

I was hardly surprised to read in your article "Skills fears as number of IT students plummets" (Computer Weekly, 11 July) that the number of IT students has halved over the past five years.

If employers within the IT industry are having difficulty recruiting skilled IT professionals, are they not, to a large extent, the authors of their own misfortune?

As a mature Open University student due to graduate this year, it has been my experience that, rather than a shortage of potential graduates, there is in fact a severe shortage of companies willing to provide them with the necessary training and mentoring to equip them with the skills necessary to add value to their business.

Companies seem to have taken the easy option, recruiting people who already have the specific skillsets they are looking for, from an ever-diminishing pool of potential employees, and are now wondering why the supply is starting to dry up in the UK.

Almost every advertisement for a junior or graduate vacancy in software development seems to insist on one to two years' commercial development experience, or includes a list of required skills that a new graduate is unlikely to have.

More rigorous certification will not improve the lot of those who are seeking to get a foot on the first rung of the software development career ladder, nor will improving the quality of university degrees, if employers continue to overlook the graduates who obtain them in favour of experienced personnel.

Rather than spending millions on a "rolling research programme to measure the impact of offshoring on UK software development", may I suggest that, instead, employers invest that money in training graduates for junior roles, and in developing the skills of their existing staff so they can be promoted, in turn freeing up more vacancies for graduates.

Susan Leech

 

Firms must educate from within to allay skills fears

The dwindling number of UK IT graduates highlighted in your article "Skills fears as number of IT students plummets" (Computer Weekly, 11 July) should act as a wake-up call for companies to educate their current employees before declaring a skills shortage.

With about 70% of the world's businesses still running on ageing legacy Cobol systems, many enterprises rely on older specialists with the knowledge and experience to run them. It is not surprising that there has been much speculation about these workers reaching retirement age and so creating an impending skills crisis.

Companies must act now, and map out their legacy applications portfolio, identifying the systems and skills they will need in future. This will allow firms to recruit appropriate staff in plenty of time.

Combined with initiatives to break down the IT silos that often exist between mainframes and contemporary systems, firms will be able to minimise any significant loss of knowledge when older staff members retire and ensure a smooth transition of IT skills in the future.

Julian Dobbins, Micro Focus

 

IT and other industries still plagued by racism

Ibukun Adebayo's article on racism is accurate and well put (Computer Weekly, 18 July). Having worked in IT for over eight years, with the last five as a manager for one of the UK's major IT employers, I find my experiences match up to the article.

I am constantly being told how promising I am, yet I find that I am excluded from the type of training that would push me to the top.

The reasons seem manifold and include a perception (in my experience, valid in only a few cases) that clients will not respond favourably to non-white faces.

I too have been complimented on my excellent command of spoken and written English and praised on many occasions for my ability to think outside the box. But that is of no avail when new accounts which offer a pathway to the ranks of the senior-most become available.

Like Ibukun, I was given English as well as Ghanaian names at birth and was raised in London from age seven. I am now 45 and wondering just what I have to do to progress. This problem exists not just in IT but among all endeavours. Black people are often thought of as underachievers and this attitude seems to further disadvantage us in the corporate arena.

Perhaps when fair trade and a recognition that African and other people are not there simply to provide cheap goods and services for the developed world, there will be a readiness to employ, promote and otherwise accept us as equals.

Clearly the fact that Ibukun has attained her present position is testament that these prejudices are not everywhere all of the time. However, they exist and are prevalent most of the time.

Bernard Osei


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