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Is there really an IT skills shortage? – Opinion


In response to our coverage of a speech by John Healey, Secretary for Adults Skills, that warned of a growing skills gap due to sector expansion and employee retirement, Paul Butler, CEO of KnowledgePool, writes:

In your article, "Skills "timebomb" awaits businesses" (November 16th) you reported John Healey's fear that there is an information technology skills gap that must be addressed if Britain is to remain competitive.

Over the past year it has been impossible to avoid discussion of the IT skills shortage. The press and industry experts have argued that Britain does not have the necessary technology skills to succeed in the modern economy and it has been predicted that the UK could face a skills deficit of 600,000 workers by 2003.

According to the simple rules of supply and demand, an IT skills shortage should be causing a marked increase in demand for IT training as companies seek to train their workers, increase the quality of skills within their company and plug the skills gap. In practise however, many IT training organisations, KnowledgePool included, are not experiencing such a steep increase in demand.

One could argue that today's unstable economic climate has forced slashed training budgets even despite a skills shortage. Sadly, it is often the case that companies see IT training as a discretionary spend that can be cut in difficult times. Many fail to understand that they should continue to invest in their people and recognise the strategic importance of training.

However, despite these factors, I believe the simple reason for there being no increase in demand for training courses is that there is in fact no serious skills shortage in the UK. Indeed, considering the number of skilled employees who have recently been made redundant, we are more likely to have an excess of skilled IT staff with. In my view, the UK has a highly trained and efficient workforce, ready to take on the demands of the new economy.

Technology is the way of the future and with new technologies being launched every week, IT training and the focus on improving and developing the level and quality of IT skills in the UK will always be necessary. As a result, the IT training industry is currently working to meet a steady and continuous demand generated by the ever changing IT industry, but I do not believe it is seeking to tackle a huge skills deficit.


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