Government and industry join in scheme for IT skills

E-Skills UK, which has just been licensed under a new government programme, is calling for employers to provide badly-needed IT training for millions of workers

E-Skills UK on Tuesday called for the government, employers and educators to join a new scheme for improving the IT abilities of the 21 million UK employees currently using IT at work.

The E-Skills Passport will allow employers to track employee skills and training, improving workforce skills by identifying and recognising small chunks of learning.

E-Skills UK is one of several independent, employer-led organisations that were granted government licences on Tuesday to handle skills development for various sectors. E-Skills UK was licensed for five years as the Sector Skills Council (SSC) for IT, telecoms and contact centres. The SSCs operate under the auspices of the government's new Sector Skills Development Agency, which replaces the previous network of National Training Organisations. IT companies such as Microsoft, Dell, BT and T-Mobile have representatives on E-Skills UK's IT Industry Board.

The organisation also called for its Computer Clubs for Girls (CC4G) programme, currently being piloted in more than 100 schools, to be rolled out to every school in the UK. Currently women make up only 20 percent of the IT workforce, E-Skills UK said. CC4G received funding from the South East Development Agency.

Girls participating in the programme design CD and teen magazine covers, use Flash animation and create Web sites. Charles Clarke, Secretary of State for Education and Skills, recommended for them to be open to both genders; at one school, boys set up their rival Computer Club for Guys in reaction to being excluded.

David Burrows, head of education at Microsoft, agreed with Clarke's views. "Despite some of the near-term challenges that the IT industry faces, the reality is that IT is going to be increasingly central to the transformation of the economy like the UK, which will be increasingly driven by knowledge and information," he said. "I don't think that the new generation coming into the industry has really started to get an understanding of the potential of what ICT can do. This isn't just about IT in IT. This is (every facet of) business."

Other programmes E-Skills UK is promoting include:

  • IT and Telecoms Modern Apprenticeships, developed as a way of training young people to work effectively in their early careers. Orange are one of the companies using the apprenticeships.
  • Skills Framework for The Information Age (SFIA), which provides a common reference model for the identification of the skills needed to develop effective information systems, and make use of ICT. This has been adopted by the Ministry of Defence.

Dell got involved with E-Skills UK three years ago, according to Dell vice president and general manager Brian McBride, because of the organisation's across-the-board focus on IT skills. "It was the first time a unifying forum in the IT industry is bringing together hardware, software, services, the telecoms industry and contact centres, large and small companies. And getting us all together to address common issues."

On a lighter note McBride said parents could do their street cred no end of good by introducing their daughters to the Computer Clubs for Girls.

E-Skills UK chief executive Karen Price said that UK employees' IT training will have a direct impact on the performance of the nation's economy. "In the UK, less than three quarters of the workforce posses the necessary IT skills to perform their job; it's simply not good enough," she said. "This skills gap impacts the GDP of the UK as a whole and means the organisations affected simply cannot fulfil their potential."

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