Central government staff lack skills in IT

A significant proportion of civil servants lack skills in areas such as IT, a National Audit Office report has found.

A significant proportion of civil servants lack skills in areas such as IT, a National Audit Office report has found.

Around 40% of staff have fairly or very significant skills gaps in IT, found a survey of employees working at the Department for Work and Pensions, Education Farming and Rural Affairs and the Treasury. But the report did not specify the particular IT skills staff lacked.

Overall, the government estimates that expenditure on formal training, including salary costs of departmental learning and development staff, was £275m in 2009-10.

Margaret Hodge, chair of the Committee of Public Accounts, said: "We have heard many times about how the lack of skills in areas such as finance, IT, procurement and project management has contributed to waste, inefficiency and multiple project failures in government. It has also led to unnecessary spending on expensive consultancy advice.

"Each year departments spend at least £547 per civil servant on developing skills and yet they don't know what they are getting for their money, or if it is having any positive effect at all. In a time when headcount reductions are taking place and major reform programmes are underway, it is vital that government gets a grip on the skills it needs to deliver its objectives, and gets value for money for investment in developing its staff," she said.

But Sid Barnes, executive at recruitment agency Computer People, said the government does not invest enough in IT training for staff. "IT is seen as a non-essential cost so traditionally it is an area the government doesn't invest a lot in. But the pay-off of increasing spend on training would be greater efficiency savings," he said.

Earlier this year, Jos Creese, former president of body for public sector IT professionals Socitm, called for council staff to rely less on IT support and do more for themselves. "If we are going to expect the public to 'self-serve' then that is something we ought to also expect of staff. We need all employees to have the same access to online services, such as payroll and sickness forms, for example," he said.

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