Government forces skills training on IT suppliers

Companies will have to commit to skills training in return for winning government-funded IT contracts, skills secretary John Denham announced.

Companies will have to commit to skills training in return for winning government-funded IT contracts, skills secretary John Denham announced today.

The move aims to tackle significant shortages of people with the right skills in government. It will also discourage IT suppliers from cutting back on training during the recession.

"We have to make every taxpayer's pound work as hard as we can. Wherever possible government spending should not just provide good public services, it should also ensure young people are trained in the skills we need for the future."

"A failure to train now will mean that, when the economy begins to grow again, we will not have the skilled workers we need to seize those opportunities that growth presents," he said.

The government-funded Sector Skills Council for IT, e-skills UK, predicts the IT industry will need around 131,000 people each year for the next 10 years and that most of these will be graduates.

The government spends nearly £14bn a year on procuring IT services. Denham said he wants to make sure this spend contributes to improving the skills base of the IT workforce. He says the IT sector has significant potential for providing the jobs of the future and economic growth.

"The IT industry is one of the industries which is critical to the future of the British economy and its ability to survive and thrive post-recession. It's vitally important that British business has IT skills to draw on at all levels," he said.

Denham met the government's lead CIO John Suffolk at a summit today to discuss how government and industry can work together to promote investment in skills in the IT sector through procurement.

The government's CIOs have committed all government departments and agencies to look at "requiring successful contractors to have in place a development plan for their workforce".

Denham's department says that the IT industry "faces challenges, not least finding the right people with the right skills to enable us to compete internationally".

UK digital industries alone produce an annual gross value added of around £86bn, 10.9% of the UK total, and have the potential to contribute a further £35bn over the next five to seven years.

Denham said: "In tough economic times like these, there is a danger that employers will reduce their investment in the skills of their employees as they look to cut costs. But research shows that companies who don't train are 2.5 times more likely to fail than those who do.

Today's summit at the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills was attended by some top names in IT including:

- John Suffolk, government CIO

- Peter Court, CIO at DIUS

- Tony Mather, CIO at Foreign and Commonwealth Office

- Paul Jones, NHS Chief Technology Officer

- Dean James, COO at the Department for Work and Pensions

- Michael Leach, IT Transformation Director at the Ministry of Justice

- Paul Coby, Chief Information Officer of British Airways

Suppliers and other CIOs who attended included:

- Bill Thomas, Senior Vice-President of EMEA for EDS

- Julian David, Vice-President of IBM's Public Sector Business for the UK and South Africa

- David Thomlinson, Senior Managing Director for Accenture's Global Strategy and Operations

- Andy Green, Chief Executive Officer at Logica

- Mark Bounds, Senior Vice-President and Managing Director of government and Health at Atos Origin

- Edwina McDowall, Director of Customer Supply Chain, Cable & Wireless.

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