Government-backed report says UK must build its IT skills base

A goverment-backed report, out today (10 May), has highlighted key areas of IT skills the UK must address to provide a skilled workforce.

A goverment-backed report out today has highlighted key areas of IT skills the UK must address to provide a skilled workforce.

The report from the Department of Trade and Industry-backed group, The Information Age Partnership’s i2010 Working Group, said big changes were needed to protect the future of the UK's IT industry.

Speaking at a conference at the Department of Trade and Industry today Industry and the Regions minister Margaret Hodge said, “We have a competitive edge but we have to work doubly hard to maintain our skills [lead] from low cost economies.”

She said it was important for industry to work with schools to help drive an employer-driven curriculum. Among the challenges facing the UK, as it strives to become a knowledge economy, is a lack of ICT skills.

Just as IT jobs are currently being moved abroad to lower cost economies, car manufacturing in the 1970s was undergoing a similar process, as the UK lost its car manufacturing industry, said Mike Rodd, director of the learned society at the BCS. Rodd said, “There were more cars manufactured in the UK last year than ever before,” as the UK is now regarded as a centre of excellence for automotive electronics. He believes IT has a similar potential, in spite of the current trend to offshore software development.

Rodd said, “We have to seize the initiative and make the UK a centre of excellence.”

The report titled “Ensuring the right conditions for an innovative, inclusive and competitive UK knowledge economy” has 20 recommendations.

The report urges government, academia and commerce to stimulate innovation through investment in research. Microsoft was one of the companies that worked on the report and its UK managing director, Gordon Fraser, said, “Developing a knowledge economy is critical to the success of Britain.” He urged businesses, schools and universities to encourage youngsters to develop computer science and mathematics skills, which are heavily used in cutting-edge IT such as games-programming.

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