Skills shortage hits IT industry

February 15, 2002

The information technology industry is suffering from a severe skills shortage despite massive increases in the number of IT and computer science graduates.

A survey by the Real Time Club, a group of 150 IT entrepreneurs, has found that the industry lacks strong leaders and people who can deliver results. British IT professionals scored lower on skills than their United States counterparts and were particularly poor at arithmetic and logic, a skill taught in the US but not in the United Kingdom.

According to University and College Admissions Service figures there has been an increase of 62 per cent in the number of acceptances on computing degree courses since 1996. At HND level there has been a 15 per cent rise.

Gillian Lovegrove, former chair of the Conference of Professors and Heads of Computing (CPHC), speaking at the "Build Britain's Brainpower" conference this week, recommended introducing joint teaching schemes between employers and universities. But she warned that computing departments were already stretched to their limits, having increased student numbers before staffing was in place.

She called on the government to restore scholarship support for masters-level conversion courses, which produce graduates with a wider range of skills.

A recent survey by the CPHC and the British Computer Society found that more than 90 university ITdepartments had jobs unfilled and 13 per cent of those had at least 20 per cent of their jobs unfilled. Staff-to-student ratios are significantly higher than the norm for all subjects - 30 per cent had staff-to-student ratios greater than 30.

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