Look beyond IT graduates to plug the skills gap

By Matthew Poyiadgi
22 Mar 2011 View Comments
Matthew Poyiadgi is European vice president at CompTIA

According to e-Skills, the IT sector requires 110,000 new entrants between now and 2014 drawn from education, unemployment and job switchers to fulfil its potential – and the statistics concerning falling IT graduates are not on our side.

A lot of solutions focus on increased training, better IT education at school and promotion of IT in the media. All are valid, but there is another route we need to consider, now that there is such a need to bring people into the profession. IT organisations – both private and public – must make a greater effort to recruit new talent from outside the traditional IT graduate pool.

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Some are doing this well, but many think the technical nature of IT means they need to recruit already-qualified professionals. This might be fine if there were enough to go around, but there are not.

Plenty of graduates go into accountancy or financial services without related qualifications and their employers train them and put them through the relevant exams. Why are we not seeing this in IT, when we are crying out for fresh talent?

There are many graduates and school leavers who are hard working, ambitious and have great people skills, but are struggling to find jobs. These are exactly the kind of people we need in IT, but they do not realise that this is the case because they think they are not qualified.

We need to make it clear that there are jobs for them, and we will get them certified to fill those positions.

The infrastructure is there. There are plenty of relevant certifications for which employers can train employees at low cost. CompTIA’s A+ certification, for example, developed with the IT industry, shows that employees have mastered the skills required to enter the sector, and there are other accreditations aimed at youngsters looking to demonstrate basic IT knowledge.

Many young people will happily take on entry-level jobs in return for employers providing skills and certifications that will underpin their IT career. With rising university fees, such offers will be more attractive than ever.

Other help is also available. The government is committed to supporting apprenticeships to get people into work. Its apprenticeships web site advises on how to structure them and provides information on funding, which can be up to 100 per cent for younger people.

It is in IT organisations’ interest to ensure future IT skills demands are met. It is vital for their own success and for the future of our sector, but also – because IT is one of the UK’s few growing industries – for the UK economy as a whole.

Matthew Poyiadgi is European vice president of CompTIA

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