Tackle skills shortage, urges government CIO

Decline in graduates entering IT careers is causing a shortfall in skills and this must be addressed, argues John Suffolk

The government's chief information officer has called for the IT profession to present a united front to combat a growing IT skills shortage.

"My belief is that any great business is underpinned by professionalism, and there is a decline in people going into the IT profession," John Suffolk told ZDNet UK. "The more we show people entering and leaving university just how fantastic the value created by technology is, the more people will want to come in."

The technology industry needs an influx of over 150,000 people per annum, according to e-skills UK and Gartner. But while there is an increase in demand, the number of people with relevant skills is static or declining. According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), the number of computer science graduates in 2005/06 was just 34,005. And government statistics show that only three out of 10 graduates with IT-related degrees go into the profession.

John Suffolk said that it is difficult for businesses to find graduates with relevant skills, for example, in systems architecture. "Deep enterprise architects are hard to find, and there aren't many in the world," said Suffolk.

Mike Rodd, the British Computing Society (BCS) director of external relations, said that IT is such a broad sector that even computer science graduates may not have gained the right skills. "There's a growing number of people with the right degrees, but the wrong skills for particular parts of the IT sector," Rodd told ZDNet UK.

Rodd said that there needs to be "serious leadership from government, from the major tech players, and from bodies like [the BCS]", to put out a positive message about the IT industry and encourage people to enter the IT profession.

The BCS is involved in various projects to raise the profile of IT as a profession, including schools outreach projects, such as the University of Southampton National Cipher Challenge, which encouraged school children to crack codes.


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