Recruitment agencies are not the only problem
Gary Drew, retired independent IT consultant
John Pether's letter regarding recruitment consultants exacerbating the skills gap made familiar reading.
I have experienced recruitment agencies from both angles - as a job-seeker and as a recruiting project leader - mostly with unsatisfactory results.
However, the fault does not rest solely with agencies. It disturbs me how many employers advertise a vacancy as one thing when further investigation exposes the role as something altogether different. Job titles such as "applications developer" may attract many candidates that subsequently find the actual job content is for a completely different role.
Although I am now retired, I maintain an interest in IT and I would consider suitable part-time work. Recently I attended an interview for what was described as a "software developer". At interview it became evident that the amount of hands-on software development amounted to less than 10% - mostly it was a middle-man position liaising between the sales team, the helpdesk and the offshore development team. This vacancy was advertised directly by the company concerned.
I have had similar experiences in the past, to the point of blatant lies about actual job content. The issue here is that if employers fail to describe vacancies correctly they are wasting the time of all parties concerned.
I have lost count of the number of times I have replied to vague advertisements only for the employers to complain that they have been overwhelmed by applications. Hardly surprising.
The skills gap could disappear overnight if employers made a concerted effort to manage their recruitment more honestly and professionally.
Short-term contracts can offer long-term gains
John McGhee, Gem Upgrades
Your article "Business skills are key to the City" reflects a position 10 years ago where junior people were marketed as adaptable, quick learners rather than having the skills which the employers required.
This made it difficult to separate those with true potential from those who merely used a succession of jobs to enhance their CV and cared nothing of the mess they left in their wake.
As an employer, my choice was to pay above market rates to retain valuable existing staff, or to pay contractors to do the job with no strings attached. As the former involved haggling with the HR department over grades and pay scales, the contractor option was often simpler.
The above situation was widespread and unfortunately culminated in IT workers gaining a reputation as overpaid cowboys until after Y2K, when IT budgets were reduced and careers in IT were considered unattractive.
One way to prevent this cycle repeating itself might be to have fixed-term contracts of one or two years for top staff a scheme already used by councils implementing government initiatives.
This could encourage good business-focused staff (lots of them do exist) to come forward and demonstrate their ability to work against a deadline with the incentive of proving their market worth within the industry. Employers can budget for relatively short-term service requirements and could reap the benefits without having to maintain the heavy payload afterwards.
Information security staff must align with business
Louis Gamon, regional director, ISSA EMEA
In response to Jon Collins' opinion piece "Predict technological change to stay secure", I would like to make the following points.
First, information security practitioners are still failing to work with IT infrastructure and IT strategy teams in order to understand exactly what are the requirements one, two and more years down the line, and to be a key integral part of "proof of concept" in order to highlight any risks and to prepare both IT and business for awareness and best practice related to the new technology in question.
Second, it is absurd to suggest (as this article appears to do) that it is information security that dictates what new technology is appropriate for IT and the business. In the "USB stick" example mentioned, any self-respecting information security team would have understood the business requirements, would have been involved in any initial trials, would have explained the risk and would have suggested, and then implemented controls to mitigate the risks - one of which would have been to standardise on the type of USB stick used, which in turn makes it simple to identify such devices should a "white-list" of acceptable devices be deployed.
Adaptability is key to preventing the skills gap
Charles Woodward, IT professional
Although I have some sympathy with the idea that education should equip the young to work in the modern world, past experience suggests that industry is, perhaps, the worst source of advice on this subject.
University degrees, particularly the higher ones, can often take five to 10 years - or even more. Unfortunately, industry is concerned with the shortages today and seldom works that far in advance. In fact six months is a long-term view to many companies.
Look at the technical shortages of five or 10 years ago - if the IT industry had had its way we would have trained everyone in these areas.
Unfortunately, most people like me will have completely forgotten what those important skills were - you know they were the ones that were then in short supply.
We should be training people to think - to be adaptable - so that the skills they learn can be useful no matter what is thrown at them.