Following the release of a skills report last week, Jeff Brooks of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) for technology has said that small and medium enterprises should be less picky when choosing IT candidates, if the UK is to begin fixing the skills gap.
He explained that too many SMEs are hunting for a ‘perfect’ candidate rather than employing a graduate with potential. He says if organisations took a long-term and more forward-thinking approach, they would be “rewarded with a competent worker, who would cost an employer less and stay with the company longer”.
The REC paper ‘Skills Shortages in the ICT Workplace’ provides numerous explanations for the skills gap in the IT sector while offering advice to recruiters and employers to help address this issue.
The reasons given for the skills shortage include: poor pay in comparison to other sectors preventing people to move to the IT sector; the perception of IT workers as geeks; a reluctance to train for a vocational career such as IT; the perception of technology as too fast-changing; and the perception that there are no entry-level IT jobs due to outsourcing.
Brooks explained that in many ways the outlook is bright: “The number of vacancies within our sector has held up throughout the economic downturn because employers are investing more in IT to enhance productivity, reduce costs and drive their future growth. However, shortages currently being experienced give IT recruiters and their clients an ideal opportunity to influence the skills agenda, both in the short and long term.
“Educators, employers, recruiters and the government really need to get to grips with the whole issue to find practical solutions that will influence and inspire young people to consider a career in IT.”
The ‘Skills Shortages in the ICT Workplace’ paper recommends recruitment agencies to work with schools, universities and employers to encourage young people to take courses and gain qualifications in IT. An additional suggestion is for recruitment agencies to provide expertise to employees regarding the top universities for particular IT roles, for example.
Brooks continued: “Two main things need to happen: first, the government has to step up and say that a career in IT is great, that candidates are necessary and that it is crucial for the UK. Second, the Department for Education has to invest in its sector as ICT teachers are currently only qualified to teach Word and Excel as opposed to things that an IT practitioner should know.”
Brooks believes that students would benefit from being taught computer science in schools, as opposed to ICT. This could give them invaluable skills as a developer and a real interest in advancing these with an apprenticeship, degree and a career.
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