Don't pass the buck on skills

From the dawn of the UK computer industry there have been dire warnings about skills shortages. There have also been drives to “professionalise” the industry, with qualifications to provide individuals with proof of their expertise, and employers with a degree of reassurance that they are hiring the right people.

From the dawn of the UK computer industry there have been dire warnings about skills shortages. There have also been drives to “professionalise” the industry, with qualifications to provide individuals with proof of their expertise, and employers with a degree of reassurance that they are hiring the right people.

However, IT has remained largely an area where what really counts is your ability to do the job, rather than paper qualifications. So the most immediate issue in addressing skills shortages is where individuals can gain the practical skills needed in the workplace.

It is no surprise then that the availability of training is a major factor in encouraging able staff to stay. But a survey for the Chartered Institute of Management reveals that more than one-third of companies admit they offer little in the way of career development or training.

We would like to think that the other two-thirds are going great guns in this area, but somehow we doubt it. And what training is provided is often “bought in” from outside organisations, rather than generated in-house to provide the skills that are truly relevant at the coalface.

At one time the top IT companies were proud to attract talented people with the prospect of providing transferable skills. Sadly, few companies today seem willing to invest in boosting the skills of staff who may then take them elsewhere.

It is time for companies to stop crying into their beer that they cannot find the right people, and compete with each other to offer the best and most practical training.

Such a virtuous circle will benefit all and help IT become once more a career choice that young people are eager to make.

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