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IT Skills Plan to Close UK productivity Gap


A three-year national action plan for IT skills is planned to wipe billions off the UK's the productivity gap with France, Germany and the USA.

The programme of IT skills improvements, launched today (14 June), is expected to close the productivity gap with Germany by £1.8billion, France by £1.6billion and with the USA by £0.3billion.

Cisco Systems, IBM, British Airways, Ford and EDS are among the high-profile employers who have pledged to invest in the action plan, called the Sector Skills Agreement for IT (SSA for IT).

Under the SSA, employers will offer resources including employee hours, work placements, 'business guru' advisors in support of undergraduate programmes and development, design and delivery of programmes such as Computer Club for Girls (CC4G) and vocational qualifications like ITQ linked to the e-skills Passport.

Karen Price, CEO of e-skillsUK, said: "Businesses, and the entire UK economy, are dependent on having a workforce with the right IT skills. The SSA for IT is the first time employers, industry, the education sector and government have joined together on this scale to collaborate on UK IT skills improvement. This is not just about improvements in the IT sector, but across the whole economy as more UK organisations benefit from better exploitation of technology."

The UK lags behind France and Germany in terms of intermediate skills and the US in graduate-level skills. Forty five per cent of UK Gross Value Added (GVA), a measure for productivity, comes from IT-intensive industries alone. IT industries contribute 6.7% of the total UK GVA. The SSA for IT will target both professional and everyday IT skills for significant productivity gains across all sectors.

Duncan Mitchell, VP and MD of UK and Ireland, for Cisco, a company heavily involved in the SSA for IT, said: "The Sector Skills Agreement for IT represents the first time that employers have sat down and agreed on how best to give our workforce the skills it needs to transform UK IT. But agreeing what is needed is only the first step. As employers we now need to demonstrate real commitment to it."

Mitchell added that Cisco would be sending employee volunteers in to help support CC4G clubs, offer work placements and supporting the delivery of a new Information Technology Management for Business degree.

The SSA for IT includes a three-year timetable of key milestones which includes:
- Increasing the skills of 750,000 people who use IT in their day-to-day jobs through a vocational ITQ linked to an employer assessment tool called e-skills Passport.
- Benefiting 1,000 students through the first-ever IT employer-designed degree at the universities of Reading, Greenwich, Central England and Northumbria by September 2005. The honours degree will be rolled out to 17 more universities before 2008 and to 1000 undergraduates each year.
- Encouraging 150,000 girls, aged 10-14 years, in 3,600 schools around England to consider a career in IT through an out-of-school programme called Computer Clubs for Girls (CC4G).


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