IT skills gap 'is harming innovation'

BT and SMBs complain at dearth of skills - citing cybersecurity as a big issue

The IT industry must do more to tackle the UK skills gap, claims a new report that shows many businesses are suffering from a lack of skilled workers.

British firms are struggling to find the right talent to fill vacancies, claims the report, published by CompTIA, a company that provides vendor-neutral certifications to workers globally.

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The International Technology Adoption and Workforce Trends Study found that 44 per cent of 1,500 IT workers believed staff productivity is suffering because of the skills gap.

Meanwhile, 30 per cent said that customer services were also impacted, with a further 26 per cent saying it damaged innovation and new product development.

Rob Partridge, head of the BT Security Academy, said: "We believe the IT industry seriously needs to consider looking beyond university degrees and attracting and developing talent through vocational qualifications, new forms of online learning and apprenticeships."

"It is not surprising that this survey reveals UK companies are still experiencing a skills gap across the UK," added Mike Brooman, director of one Birmingham-based SMB, IT consultancy Vanti.

"We have experienced problems finding skilled staff, despite the reported youth unemployment in our city.

"We are testing a number of alternative hiring routes, including apprenticeships and industry certifications, so we can train people to our standards in-house rather than try to compete in an over-inflated and ill-equipped graduate market."

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Even BT weighed in, with its security academy chief, Rob Partridge, saying: "We see a significant talent shortage in the UK and we have been proactively providing educational materials for schools and developing national IT talent competitions to help address this problem.

"We believe the IT industry seriously needs to consider looking beyond university degrees and attracting and developing talent through vocational qualifications, new forms of online learning and apprenticeships. "

The biggest area for concern is cybersecurity, with 63 per cent of respondents claiming the gap is widening at a time when data breaches abound.

Despite these findings, however, improvements have been made with 55 per cent of firms claiming to have the requisite skills or to be nearly there, compared to 48 per cent two years earlier.

Estelle Johannes, CompTIA's UK director for member communities, said: "The impact of the skills gap threatens the livelihood of businesses across the country, from information security to customer service and more needs to be done to table this growing problem.

"But building and managing talent requires a concerted effort, resources and time. There is rarely a quick fix to addressing skills gaps."

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