Postgraduate study is another route to IT career
Head of the Department of Computing,
City University London
I read with interest the article "Retraining existing staff will be key to avoiding skills crisis, says E-Skills", which makes a number of valid observations on the IT industry's skills needs.
The article neglects one route by which shortages in high-level IT skills can be addressed. Postgraduate studies can deliver these skills quickly compared with undergraduate and school provision, which the Leitch report focuses upon, as an MSc takes only one year to increase the skills of a graduate.
IT-related master's courses such as those offered at City University London have a long and successful track record of taking graduates from a wide range of backgrounds and increasing their skills to help create highly employable IT professionals. In particular, City University London's postgraduate internships in the IT industry allow masters students to gain the essential non-technical skills, such as business awareness, that E-Skills rightly emphasises.
SMEs want integration first, technology second
Product and services director, Lakeview
The article on financial and accounting software for small and medium-sized enterprises is right to highlight the increased software functionality now available to companies of all sizes.
Yet in bringing enterprise scale and sophisticated technologies to the SME market in this way, many software developers are completely missing the point in meeting the real needs of this growing and attractive market.
SMEs are not so interested in client server technology, web interfaces and SOA. At the top of their business software agenda is the need for a fully integrated, reliable and robust system. They want one system that covers the whole business, from manufacturing and sales to distribution and accounts, so that when a transaction is entered on to the system it is visible to all.
At the same time, SMEs are looking for rapid implementations that deliver short-term benefits. Suppliers must set realistic project expectations. Once in place, quality of service and support must be of a consistently high quality - traditionally not the strongest suit of IT providers.
All of these issues are technology-agnostic. And many SMEs making such investment the second time around will previously have had their fingers burnt by poor implementations and a lack of support - issues rarely related to an enterprise system's underlying technology.
Providing the technical capability for SMEs to complete with their larger counterparts is undoubtedly important. Yet benefits will only accrue if such superior capability forms an integral part of a fully rounded, enterprise-wide product and service system.
Employers have a role to play in skills shortage
Chief operating officer, FDM Group
I read Rebecca Thomson's article "Employers struck by shortage of .net skills" and was compelled to comment. The IT skills shortage, now at a six-year peak, is well publicised, yet businesses are still not doing enough to tackle the issue.
Certainly, it is the responsibility of universities to equip graduates with the core tools they need for the modern workplace, and no doubt there is still more work to do here. However, universities are not geared up to offer training in the latest technologies and skills.
Rather than laying the blame for the skills shortage firmly with the UK education system, businesses need to recognise that they have a role to play in bridging the skills gap.
IT managers are under pressure to deliver systems in ever-decreasing timescales, and as a result they do not want the burden of junior recruits who will require training. This has led IT departments to recruit only experienced staff, which compounds the skills shortage.
The IT recruitment market is overlooking both graduates and novices, so the next generation of IT professionals is not gaining the valuable experience needed to ensure the future success of the market.
The mindset of business leaders needs to change when it comes to recruitment. Universities can only provide students with an introduction to IT - it is up to businesses to build on this. Providing a long-term development programme for first-time jobbers will allow businesses to attract and retain them once they are commercially trained.
Businesses need to recognise the rewards that come from investing in training, forging relationships with training schools and universities, and letting first-timers through the door.