Top 10 IT skills and careers stories of 2011

IT professionals are keeping a keen eye on their career prospects in a difficult economy. We look back at the top IT skills stories of 2011.

Sustained economic uncertainty put pressure on the jobs market in 2011 as businesses struggled to do more with fewer people.

As the number of students opting for IT-related courses continued to decline, industry attention was given to IT education as the industry analysed new career routes, such as apprenticeships, and considered partnerships with academia.

At the year’s end, the recruitment market became candidate-driven again, fuelling a competition for businesses to attract and retain talent into 2012.

1. Government to scrap 'appalling' IT GCSE following employers complaints

The government is to scrap the ICT GCSE in an effort to stop children turning away from the subject. Ministers have commissioned e-Skills, the computer skills organisations, to draft a replacement qualification, following complaints from employers that the current IT syllabus is too woolly to be taken seriously. Karen Price, CEO of e-skills, said there had been a 50% fall in computing degree applicants because children found the ICT GCSE "boring".

2. The IT Apprentice: How technology internships bring niche skills to industry

With the number of students gaining IT-related GCSE and A-levels continuing to fall, and university tuition fees set to rocket in England and Wales next year, the IT sector is preparing alternative IT career paths for young people looking to enter the industry through internships.

3. One in five IT staff expected to quit current employer within 12 months

One in five IT staff are likely to leave their current employer next year in search of more interesting projects and career opportunities, while 80% feel they need a job change to progress their career, according to exclusive research. The Technology Industry Survey 2012, conducted by IT recruitment firm Mortimer Spinks and Computer Weekly, showed more than 80% of 650 IT professionals surveyed feel they are more likely to progress their career by moving companies.

4. A-level results show decline in IT student numbers

This year's A-level results show a continued decline in the number of students gaining IT-related qualifications. The results show a 1.8% drop in the number of students taking IT-related A-levels, with 15,962 students studying for ICT and computing A-levels in 2011, compared with 16,251 last year.

5. Government must give businesses headcount flexibility, says Microsoft MD

Government legislation needs to allow businesses to "hire and fire" to stimulate the jobs market, according to Microsoft's UK chief. Gordon Frazer, UK managing director at Microsoft, believes the government should make it easier for small businesses to hire and fire to encourage more organisations to recruit to counter UK unemployment.

6. How will software-as-a-service change the IT department?

As businesses introduce software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications to cut IT costs, the cloud could change how the traditional IT department operates by reducing staff numbers. With prices for SaaS products starting at £70 per user per month, it is easy to see how the IT department may find itself left out of some purchasing decisions

7. Budget 2011: Apprenticeships will struggle to plug IT skills gap

Government plans to fund more apprenticeships and work experience placements may fail to address demand for high-level skills in the IT industry, according to an industry expert. Chancellor George Osborne today announced funding for 50,000 new apprenticeships over the next four years, and confirmed 80,000 additional work experience placements for young people as well as funding for 12 new university technical colleges.

8. Training for IT professionals rather than pupils needed to plug skills gap, say experts

Improving training and qualifications for senior IT professionals is more important than attracting school leavers into IT careers, according to industry experts. Speaking at a City University London event, Andrew Tuson, course director for the Master of Information Leadership (MIL) course at City, acknowledged the need to attract more school leavers into IT degree courses and careers, but added that the industry would be "dead" if there was too great a focus on school and graduate entry skills gaps.

9. 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. 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.

10. UK government says it can attract and retain the cyber defence skills it needs

The UK government says it understands the need to make sure it has enough highly skilled IT professionals to respond to cyber threats. The statement comes in a document submitted to Parliament in response to concerns raised by the Intelligence and Security Committee's latest report.

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