Report calls for more IT graduates

Developing the Future study positions the UK as a world leading high-tech centre, but only if it can continue to find good graduates and bring more women into IT.

We need more IT graduates, more women in IT and we need them now if we are going to have any hope of competing in a global economy long-term.

That is the stark warning delivered in a report looking at the state of high-tech training and careers in the UK.

The Microsoft-commissioned Developing the Future 2007 report paints a picture of the UK as a high-tech centre rivalling the US in terms of business services and digital design. But this is conditional on the supply of a suitably skilled workforce.

"The supply of IT graduates must increase to reflect the UK's shift to a Knowledge Economy," writes Gordon Frazer, managing director of Microsoft's UK arm in the foreword. "Schools must also ensure that crucial computing skills are made available to all at GCSE level as well as at A-level and beyond. Industry must also work in concert with academia and government to ensure that UK citizens can constantly refresh their skills throughout their working lives."

The key findings of the report are the need to address a widening skills gap in the UK, to stimulate greater interest in computing education from the age of 11 onwards, and to more actively support innovation within the SME software development sector.

Specifically, the reports finds that only 30 per cent of graduates from IT-related degrees chose to follow an IT career. 'The question facing the UK is whether there will be enough people working in the primary IT sector to develop the tools, applications and technologies that will be needed in other sectors that are heavily IT dependent such as financial services,' writes the report.

Part of the problem resides with the lack of female recruits for the industry states the report. It says that despite numerous industry initiatives, less than a fifth of the UK's IT workforce is female. 'If it is to fill its skills gap, the IT industry needs to recruit from the entire talent, not merely the masculine half,' it states. 'Currently, only 17 per cent of those undertaking IT-related courses are women.'

It estimates the current UK IT workforce as averaging 156,000-179,000 per annum, covering both new jobs created from growth and replacement demand.

The report also notes that the UK economy is fast approaching a point where the "Knowledge Economy" will soon contribute 50 per cent of UK GDP (Gross Domestic Product). "With its unique overlap of financial services, technology, media, venture capital, and government interests, London is rapidly becoming a global hub for a new class of entrepreneur as well as being an international capital for creative industries such as digital effects for the film industry and video games."

The report was produced in conjunction with the British Computer Society, Intellect and City University London.

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