Giving IT staff the support and resources to continue adding to their skills makes crucial business sense in an era of growing competition, Karen Price, chief executive of E-skills UK, told finalists at Computer Weekly's Best Places to Work in IT awards ceremony.
Price said the sector had a good record of spending on training, with £1bn being invested in IT staff last year.
This puts the IT sector among the top three in terms of spend per employee, but investment in staff needed to increase further in the years ahead, particularly in view of the threat from offshoring, she said.
"Offshoring is a factor that must not be overlooked. There is no doubt there will need to be a rebalance of the skill profile we have in the UK, but we should see this more as an opportunity than a threat."
Price said more also needed to be done to promote the benefits arising from the investment that had already been made. "Can we articulate the return on that investment?" she asked.
"Do we know what skills we have got? Are they externally validated? Do we know where to turn to develop the skills we need at a price we can afford to pay?"
Price also warned that the profession urgently needed to address its image.
"The number of students applying to do computer-related degrees has fallen off the edge of a cliff," she said. "Young people are not choosing to work in this sector, nor are their parents signposting them towards it.
"We should use today as a call to action. As a profession, we have a tendency to talk ourselves down. What other profession talks itself down in this way?
"Where are the successes? Remember, this negative press has an impact on applications."
Price said more needed to be done to get the message across that IT was a fulfilling career if it was to attract more graduates with the right skills.
She added that attracting women into IT in greater numbers remained a key priority, because "we cannot survive as a profession if we are only fishing in half the talent pool".
All the winners