Teachers are "out of touch", programmers suffer from a geeky image and the resulting "mismatch" is fuelling severe recruitment difficulties for IT employers.
These are the findings of a report published last week by UK consultancy firm Information Builders with support from the CBI, designed to identify the causes of the gap between the IT skills needs of employers and those of entrants to the jobs market.
Clive Parminter, UK VP of Information Builders told journalists that the current lack of skilled programmers is "critical" and likely to get much worse "unless businesses and academia start communicating with one another effectively".
At the root of the problem is an association of geekiness or "nerdism" among students considering a move into programming. "It's no secret" said Parmitter, "that computer programmers have a certain image and this image can put some people off the profession." But even if students do rise above society's branding of the programmer to begin an IT course, they are likely to qualify with skills the real world has little need for. "50 percent of the employers we spoke to say it is difficult to find programmers," said Parmitter, "and once they do, 60 percent of businesses say those courses are not providing what they need."
This "mismatch" will continue to drive salaries skyward for programmers thus adding to the expense companies are faced with when planning IT projects. "It's a very difficult and worrying situation" according to Pam Pipe, marketing manager for Information Builders. "The current situation is that you have large companies desperately trying to employ programmers who can, because of the enormous shortage, command high salaries. But our survey shows that in the majority of cases the employers aren't happy because the staff don't have the right qualifications. This leads to an increase in contracting -- basically getting the short term issues dealt with rather than looking at the long term problems."
- Not enough students studying programming
- Once they qualify they have the wrong skills
- 1 in six educators don't believe their courses are providing what business needs
- Nearly 60 percent of businesses say courses are not providing what they need,
- 63 percent of educators say they have a clear understanding of what business needs.
- 0 percent of businesses say teachers have a clear understanding of what business needs.
We just work here...
- only 31 percent of teachers have actually worked in the IT industry
- with the majority of them (27 percent) for only 2 years
The report presents a damning insight into the state of IT education in Britain. Of the 50 education establishments surveyed, nearly 70 percent of the educators had not worked in the IT industry with one in six admitting that they do not believe their courses provide what's needed in business. This, said Pipe, "leads us to conclude that the wrong skills are being delivered and that there is a significant difference between what academia says it is producing and what business wants".
Sally Tate, managing director of Prince training in London doesn't see an end to the problem any time soon. "There's a whole range of problems. Millennium issues are draining resources, we're entering a difficult economic period, but my main concern is that we are on an inexorable drift toward contracting where there is little if any allegiance to companies. That's very bad for the UK, very bad indeed."
For more information on the report, Bridging the Gap, go to the Information Builders web site.