IT driving UK economy as skills gap widens

New report suggests 300,000 new recruits are needed to fill IT employment gaps by 2023.

IT specialists will be the driving force behind the UK economy over the next ten years, according to a report from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills.

The "Technology and Skills in the Digital Industries" report predicts that over the next decade the digital sector would require 300,000 workers to "maximise its full potential".

The new roles would require both deeper and more specialised technical IT knowhow, complemented by business, sales and communication skills.

The report warned that a lack of specialist technical skills are hampering the sector's growth with nearly one fifth of all vacancies difficult to fill. This, in turn, is making it harder for digital companies to keep pace with technological change, it is claimed. The report was written by e-skills UK and funded by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES).

It found a growing need for high-level IT specialisms, such as IT architects, Big Data gurus and security specialists.

It added that core technical and computing skills remain important, but upskilling existing IT specialists with broader and deeper skills is critical for continued growth. Employment growth in the sector has risen by an average rate of 5.5 per cent between 2009 and 2012 with 89 per cent of total employment located in England, seven per cent in Scotland and two per cent each in Wales and Northern Ireland. Rachel Pinto, research manager at UKCES, said: "The digital sector contributes nearly 69 billion to the economy. It is also one of the most productive sectors with a growth rate since the recession three times above the average. "But the impact of IT specialists goes much further than this - of the total 1.1 million IT specialists in the UK, just under half are employed in the digital sector, with the rest most likely to be employed in finance and professional services, manufacturing or the public sector." "To make sure the digital sector really thrives, there's a clear need for employers to take ownership of the skills agenda and play an active role in training the next generation of IT specialists," Pinto added.

The document also states that digital workers are among the most highly qualified members of the UK workforce, with around 63 per cent having a higher education qualification in 2012.

However, computing graduates had the highest unemployment rate six months after leaving university last year.

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