Demand for IT professionals has increased significantly over the past year, but employers continue to favour men and more experienced candidates, according to a report published by e-Skills UK today.
There are currently 1.5 million people employed in the IT and telecoms sector, the equivalent to one in every 20 people employed in the UK.
Demand is set to continue, with employment in the IT industry set to grow at 2.19 per cent per annum – almost five times faster than the UK average. This equates to over half a million new IT and telecoms professionals needed over the next five years.
This year alone 110,000 new entrants will be required to keep up with demand. Half of these will be people employed in other occupations moving into IT, while 17 per cent will need to come directly from education.
The jobs on offer will largely be high value roles, which demand both sophisticated business and management skills alongside deep technical competence.
"With high levels of unemployment in the UK, this research shows that IT and telecoms is one sector of the economy where employment is growing steadily, with an immediate need for new entrants into the workforce to keep up with demand," said Karen Price, chief executive of e-Skills UK.
"There is a particular need for a new type of development programme that helps young people move easily into IT roles, and for continued action to attract talent from all sources, particularly women."
The proportion of professionals under 30 in the industry has declined from 33 per cent in 2001 to only 19 per cent in 2010, as the sector increasingly favours experienced workers. Also, the proportion of professionals over 50 has almost doubled to 17 per cent.
Gender imbalance remains a concern, with women only making up 18 per cent of the workforce.
In addition, technology could also play a vital role in the UK's economic recovery. At the heart of every sector, IT and telecoms contributes £81bn per annum to the economy and makes up nine per cent of the UK's economy.
The research suggests that if the industry's potential was fully exploited this could be boosted by an additional £50bn over the next five to seven years.
"We need to leverage the power of technology to deliver productivity and global competitiveness, and create the high value jobs on which the UK economy increasingly depends," said Andy Green, chair of the e-Skills UK board and global CEO of Logica.
"Continued investment in the sector, and into the skills of those working in it, is vital to securing the UK's economic future."