Spain faces IT skills headache

July 7, 2000

Barcelona

British entrepreneur Paul Metcalf is finding it hard to recruit the technical staff he needs for NonStopYacht.com, the company he is setting up in Barcelona.

Spanish employers share his headache and are signing up computing students before they begin their final year of studies.

There are 22,000 computing and telecoms posts vacant in Spain, according to US consultants International Data Corporation. And, while computing engineers and technicians make up 4.43 per cent of university students this year, jobs for IT staff account for 8.4 per cent of graduate vacancies, according to a report by infoempleo.com.

Teresa Bofill, head of careers guidance at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia, said that computing students are no longer using her centre's services and that demand is so high some are dropping out of college to start work.

Academics agree that there is a problem but do not see simply turning out more IT graduates as the solution. Gregorio Mart!n, director of the Robotics Institute at Valencia University, said employers do not have a clear idea of what they need. "This type of work has a very strong practical rather than academic component - you don't need five or six years of higher education to do it."

But vocational training in Spain has very low prestige compared with a university education. Pere Botella, vice-rector of academic affairs at the PUC, said: "Parents put a lot of pressure on their children to go to university. But in all sectors of the Spanish economy we lack medium-level technical personnel." He believes universities should increase the number of places available on shorter diplomas, but said that many of the answers to this problem have to come from outside the university.

Professor Mart!n believes that the current level of demand for IT graduates is a passing phase due to the explosion of the internet.

Several Spanish universities have established programmes in partnership with big companies. Valencia University provides on-line training leading to a certification for US software giant Cisco Systems, while the PUC runs a masters degree in mobile telephony together with wireless operator Airtel.

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