A shortage of people with IT skills could make Britain uncompetitive in the globalised knowledge economy, warns a new report into the opportunities and threats facing the UK software development sector.
The Microsoft-sponsored report, Developing the Future, found a declining pool of suitable entrants from school and university, yet unemployment among IT graduates is almost twice as high as that of other degree holders.
The knowledge economy will soon contribute half of the UK's gross domestic product (GDP), the report by the public-private skills partnership E-skills UK said. This includes sectors such as financial services, IT, business services and creative services.
The knowledge economy already employs 41% of all workers by occupational classification and accounts for 40% of GDP by industry classification. It is the fastest growing sector of the UK economy, and is expected to rise to 50% of GDP by 2010.
"The software sector is the most significant contributor to the growth and prosperity of the creative industries, and shows the greatest contribution to the UK national accounts for the creative sectors," the report said.
The report showed a steady demand for 156,000 to 179,000 people to fill, replace and expand the software development market.
But fewer children are leaving school with IT skills, and fewer are going on to study computer science and other IT skills at university. Even then, IT graduates are choosing to enter other professions.
Unemployment among IT graduates is higher at 10.3%, than the average for all subjects at 6.2%, it added.
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