Education body calls on support of IT pros to close ICT skills gap


Closing the IT skills gap requires input from all major employers, not just those operating in the IT sector, according to a report by The Corporate IT Forum Education and Skills Commission (CIFESC).

In the first of four reports published by the IT skills body, looking at how improving early years education can reduce the IT skills shortage, the group said more needs to be done to make young children aware of IT career opportunities before they enter higher education.

The Commission was set up by the Corporate IT Forum in March 2012 to find ways of closing the IT skills gap, and counts a slew of private and public sector firms as members, including McDonalds, The Wellcome Trust and Severn Trent Water among others.

Part of the problem, the report claims, is that there are not enough ICT teachers working in schools and few opportunities for existing ones to continue their professional development, which is a problem for an industry as fast moving as IT.

It also calls on IT professionals to offer support to schools to help shape the way IT is taught and how career guidance is offered to pupils.

"Careers counselling and support for children and young people is in disarray. ICT career materials and activities are poor and not as good as those of other STEM subjects," the report states.

"There are initiatives to encourage young people into careers in technology but these are not joined up and easily accessible content does not reflect the breadth and scale of opportunities particularly as a function within major corporates."

The report then makes a series of recommendations about how these issues can be tackled. For instance, the Commission wants Year 9 students to receive advice about careers in IT before they choose the subjects they want to study at GCSE.

It also recommends that every school should give students access to career professionals with a STEM qualification, and wants the Government to provide funding for this.

"It is critical that access to good careers advice is not restricted to only the most disadvantaged and those with parents able and willing to pay for advice," it stated.

"There is a lack of high quality, engaging and rounded careers materials on IT...[and] large IT dependent employers and IT businesses should provide guidance, materials and role models," it said.

"But [the] Government needs to provide a delivery this is promoted actively to children, teachers, careers advisors and parents," the report added.

In the foreword to the report, David Roberts, executive director of the Corporate IT Forum, said efforts to close the skills gap need to involve non-IT firms as well.

"The IT function is business critical to virtually every major organisation in the UK. If all efforts to address the skills gap focus purely on IT related industries there is a real danger that other types of major employers, equally important to the UK economy, will struggle to get the [IT] talent [they need]," he wrote.

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.