IT suppliers will have to commit to boosting the tech skills of their workforce if they want to win government contracts under plans unveiled on Thursday.
Speaking at a government and IT industry summit, skills secretary John Denham said there is a risk employers will cut training in the downturn, so the government is looking at ways of encouraging workforce investment, especially in IT, viewed as vital for the UK's future economic growth.
Denham said in a statement: "In tough economic times like these, there is a danger that employers will reduce their investment in the skills of their employees as they look to cut costs. But research shows that companies who don't train are 2.5 times more likely to fail than those who do. A failure to train now will mean that when the economy begins to grow again, we will not have the skilled workers we need to seize those opportunities that growth presents."
He added: "The IT industry is one of the industries which is critical to the future of the British economy and its ability to survive and thrive post-recession. It's vitally important that British business has IT skills to draw on at all levels."
At the summit Denham met IT representatives across government and industry to look at how Whitehall departments and their suppliers can work together to deliver training commitments as part of contract wins, and to discuss more broadly how the procurement process can be better shaped to benefit the IT sector.
Sector skills organisation e-skills UK has predicted around 140,000 IT graduates will be needed each year until 2018 to keep up with demand — demand that can't be filled by school and university graduates alone — meaning investment in IT training, reskilling and upskilling is imperative.
Recognising the need to boost UK IT skills the government last year gave the go ahead for a National Skills Academy for IT which is due to open its doors this summer. The academy will train 10,000 people in its first three years of operation.
Whitehall spends almost £14bn annually on procuring IT services, according to the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills — part of £175bn spent annually across the public sector on buying goods and services.