The country's best IT departments make a major contribution to British industry

Patricia Hewitt explains the importance of the Best Places to Work in IT awards.

Patricia Hewitt explains the importance of the Best Places to Work in IT awards.

The IT sector employs more than a million people in the UK, and is one of the success stories of our economy over the past 10 years. Almost all of the world's leading IT companies have a base here, with many making the UK their first stop in Europe.

The IT sector in the UK has attracted some of the biggest companies in the business and it offers opportunities for all types of firms - large and small. Some 95,000 software and IT services companies contribute to the sector, which is not only important in its own right, but to organisations in every other sector as well.

Employers in the UK clearly know that IT is vital to almost everything they do, from marketing to share trading, purchasing to data management. And each company usually has its IT department to thank when technology makes the jobs and lives of its employees easier - for example, by allowing people to work from home or on the move, or enabling staff to share work with colleagues in different buildings, cities and countries.

So it is great that these awards recognise the very best places to work in IT in the UK. Many factors make somewhere a great place to work - the opportunities available to staff, a culture that develops people's skills, and an employer who values their employees' work/life balance, among other things.

For people who work in IT, the best employers are also quick to grasp new technology and innovate, not afraid to give their staff new challenges and to make IT integral to the core business of their organisation.

Of course, there are still challenges for IT employers to meet if they want to remain one of the most progressive sectors to work in and to attract the best graduates. For example, I still want to see more women working in IT.

If more employers embraced the work/life balance agenda, people development and commitment to equal opportunities demonstrated by these winners, the sector will undoubtedly continue to thrive.

To get the best people these days, employers are increasingly realising that they have to draw on the widest possible talent pool and that means being flexible, dynamic and open to all.

I am delighted that so many companies are represented in these awards, and that they come from such a broad spectrum of UK business. People in IT know that the innovative practices of today become the industry standard of tomorrow.

These employers know that applies just as much to the people they employ as to the technology and systems they use. With that in mind, I congratulate the winners.

Patricia Hewitt is secretary of state for trade and industry

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