Businesses told to work better with education to plug critical IT skills gap

Employers must do more to help attract young students to IT-related subjects at school to plug the alarming IT sector skills gap, a leading employment body has warned.

Employers must do more to help attract young students to IT-related subjects at school to plug the alarming IT sector skills gap, a leading employment body has warned.

The Recruitment and Education Confederation (REC) said in a report that a critical shortage threatens to undermine the UK's competitiveness in technology-driven markets and educators and employers must work better together.

In the report, titled Skills Shortages in the Technical Workplace, Jeff Brooks, chair of REC Technology described IT education at schools as inadequate, uninspiring, dull and unchallenging as the curriculum lags behind student capability and educators struggle to keep pace with technological changes.

He said it is crucial for businesses to work with educational organisations to plug the skills gap and enthuse young people about IT careers.

"The education sector must embrace systematic change to create programmes that are flexible enough to meet the demands of rapidly changing technology and business environments and, importantly, spark young people's interest," said Brooks.

The government announced plans to revamp the ICT GCSE in September 2011, working with IBM, Cisco, Deloitte, HP, Microsoft, National Grid, Proctor & Gamble, and Capgemini.

The new GCSE IT curriculum pilot is intended to create a greater emphasis on designing software and writing computer programs in school. Once complete, a new curriculum for IT A-level will also be trialled. The curriculum pilot will run in 20 schools for around 100 GCSE students from November 2011 to June 2012.

REC's six steps for businesses to build closer ties with the education sector


  • Accept that new graduates and others entering the IT workforce may require more induction training than other functional hires; and plan for this investment.



  • Look for opportunities to collaborate with local schools and colleges, promoting IT careers and sponsoring promising students.



  • Lobby government through industry and trade bodies to revise the school curriculum; fund apprentices and give direction to universities.



  • Think about skills strategically and prepare workforce plans, sharing them with recruitment suppliers to allow forward planning and preparation.



  • Work with suppliers, especially SMEs, to prepare "supplier ecosystem" workforce plans, bringing skills into the wider workforce.


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