IT education and careers system in disarray, reveals CIF

Commission makes 20 recommendations for IT education sector, in first of four reports on the UK’s IT skills shortage

The IT education and careers system is in complete disarray, according to a report by the Corporate IT Forum (CIF) Education and Skills Commission.

The Early Years report, the first of four from the commission, highlights the IT skills crisis currently facing the UK.

The research identifies a number of causes of skills shortages, which, according to the figures, are affecting more than half of large IT-dependent businesses. They include new outsourcing policies, an ageing workforce, and an insufficient understanding of IT and the benefits it can bring.

In light of these findings, the Education and Skills Commission has included 20 recommendations in the report, suggesting improvements on education, careers guidance and the development of the new IT curriculum.

Recommendations include the need for employer input (employers who use IT, instead of just IT developers and suppliers), a requirement for schools to allocate money for career guidance and Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) careers events, government funding to allow every school to have a Stem or computer club, a single examination board for IT, and for the subject to be included in the new English Baccalaureate.

John Harris, commission chairman and vice-president, global enterprise architecture, at Aimia, said employment in the IT industry is expected to grow at nearly five times the UK average over the next decade. Despite this, he said, IT careers support and IT education for young people “is in disarray”.

In April 2012, the government passed the statutory duty to offer impartial careers advice and guidance to schools that require it.

However, the commission has said that it is has concerns about schools having to meet the costs of provision from their overall budgets, in addition to a lack of guidance on minimum investment levels.

According to Harris, without the right careers guidance and curriculum, there is a danger that in the short term the situation will only get worse, with employers forced to recruit outside of the UK to fill the skills gap.

“We have looked at the work underway in these areas, but find that many of the current duties for schools and related initiatives are not funded properly, fail to address business needs or are not being executed in a way likely to make a fast enough impact," he said. 

“Unless immediate action is taken, we will have whole swathes of the current generation of schoolchildren who are simply not IT literate enough to function in an increasingly digital world,” warned Harris.

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