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Readers' opinions

Audit office is bold in tackling the tricky issues

Julian Wood

Director of marketing and communications

National Audit Office

Your anonymous correspondent was quite wrong in their criticisms of the National Audit Office. Even a cursory analysis of our work over the past year would quickly demonstrate that we tackle the tricky issues, we are bold in our findings and we tell the story as it is.

We select topics where we can add value. This might be mid-way through a major programme where there is acute public interest and a clear steer can influence future developments. Take, for example, the two reports we have published so far on the 2012 Olympics, or our report on the ongoing City Academies programme.

Or we might shine a light on a neglected area of public policy such as dementia. Our recent report clearly showed how it was being given far too low a priority by health and social services.

The factual accuracy of our reports is agreed by departments so that they provide a robust basis from which those responsible for the service or programme under scrutiny can be challenged and held to account by parliament. The recommendations made subsequently lead to lasting improvements in public services and often to financial savings.

Recruitment success is all down to keywords

Dave Overall

I absolutely agree with John Pether's letter on recruitment consultants. I know many excellent and experienced project managers who cannot get their CVs past recruitment consultants and onto the desks of potential employers.

Headlines in Computer Weekly describing these skills as being in short supply only make these people even more frustrated with the situation. However, I suspect that this phenomenon is not entirely the fault of the recruitment consultants, and I am also starting to understand why this is affecting project management more than the technical roles.

For years now, employers have been driving down recruitment costs and building preferred agency lists. Under these tight profit margins, if recruitment consultants actually read CVs they would soon be out of business. Therefore, all CVs are fed into a computerised database and scanned for matching keywords. The problem is that project management is primarily made up of "soft" skills, and so does not lend itself to keyword searches.

The solution is simple. All project managers must either put "I have Prince2 qualifications" or "I do not have Prince2 qualifications" on their CV. This will make it easy for everyone to identify project managers, provide them with jobs and solve the skills shortage.

Employer-led degree will address skills shortage

Brendan O'Mahony

Chief executive

The Communications Network

The government's move to give employers a greater say in driving improved high-end skills is both timely and essential.

As an independent professional body representing some of the largest corporates in the telecommunications and IT marketplace, the Communications Network has found that employers continue to see a significant mismatch here. Specifically, the IT-related qualifications that new young recruits bring with them to the workplace all too frequently fail to meet the specific needs of the business.

One of the principal causes of this shortfall in relevant skills delivery would seem to be that, until now, such qualifications have typically been developed almost exclusively by academic institutions, with only limited input from commerce or industry.

In response, moves are already underway to address this. In particular, we are working with a consortium of leading employers to develop a foundation degree directly geared to addressing the requirements of the IT and telecoms sector. For the first time this will be an employer-led initiative in partnership with the government body Foundation Degree Forward.

In contrast to more academic programmes, this employer-led degree will incorporate a balanced curriculum of academic and work-based learning. This "learning in action" approach includes technology, commercial and softer skills such as communications and problem solving.

If, as the Leitch Review indicates, the UK will have to double basic skills levels by 2020 in order to compete successfully with emerging economies such as India and China, now is the time to act.

Business continuity plans must be regularly tested

Steve Murphy

UK managing director

Hitachi Data Systems

I could not help but agree with your article on the disaster recovery issues surrounding businesses affected by the recent floods. Research has shown that only 25% of UK businesses have disaster recovery plans that have been tested in the past 12 months, leaving 75% inadequately prepared.

Even those with well-designed and frequently tested plans will be rethinking them in light of the changing climate and the resulting weather patterns. A detailed disaster recovery plan involving synchronous replication between two datacentres, which may previously have been considered best practice, might now show a weakness if both datacentres are in flood-affected areas.

As hard as we try, we cannot always predict the next event that will affect our business at a local or national level. While giving as much support and sympathy as possible to those affected by the flooding, we need to bear in mind that only a disaster recovery plan that is flexible, frequently tested and revised in the light of each emerging threat will enable organisations to keep their business-critical activities running.

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