Public sector lacks IT skills to deliver services effectively

IT skills most sort after in public sector if services are to continue to be delivered effectively, reveals survey

Almost half (45%) of public sector staff feel the workforce does not have the skills needed to continue delivering public services well, with 21% admitting IT is one of the most sought skills in the sector according to a survey by and Dods Research.

The survey of more than 1,600 public sector workers from central government, local government and the health sector, identified several skills contributing to the IT gap. 

These included the technical skills required to support the delivery of public services and push forward the ‘digital by default’ agenda, as well as the skills needed to run in-house digital solutions.  

The survey also found that more than half (56%) of public sector staff believe public sector reforms will not be carried out, owing to the skills gap. Furthermore, 16% predict the reforms will fail and 82% believe reforms are under pressure after cuts in staff.

Mike Fetters, public sector director at, said: “The public sector is filled with talented people, including IT professionals. But there is no denying that the last three years have been a tumultuous time, with widespread staff cuts and reforms by Whitehall affecting everyone in local government, central government and the NHS.

“While there have been huge achievements in terms of reform implementation, those in the public sector are clearly worried about their ability to continue to deliver services. They have indicated that IT skills is an area in which they need more support.”

The report found more than a third of respondents think that retaining highly skilled talent has been poorly handled by the sector’s employers.

A total of 43% of the survey’s senior central government respondents said the sector needs to bring in specialists and vocational skills to bolster talent.

Robin Harbach, head of Human Resources for defence science and technology laboratories (DSTL) said: “The challenges set out in this report chime with what we are experiencing. 

"In fact, every public sector body will be facing skills and resourcing challenges in some degree. Our priority is ensuring we have the right skills, experience and knowledge mix in our workforce at the right time and place.

“We also need to maintain the right size, shape, location and diversity of our workforce while delivering headcount reductions and redeploying staff in new roles. This must be done alongside improving performance, attracting and retaining talented people, building a shared culture and greater engagement among our workforce.”

According to Fetters, part of the problem is retaining the best talent to deliver services effectively: “Public sector workers, including HR managers, have told us that staffing cuts are not being executed with enough consideration towards keeping highly skilled workers, and letting the poor performers go. This streamlined workforce is expected to deliver ambitious reforms, yet it’s doing so with a more stretched talent pool.”

Read more on IT technical skills