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Research Identifies IT Skills Shortfall

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The IT industry could face serious skills shortages, according to a major research project into workforce practices.

According to researchers from the University of Cambridge, the sector is failing to attract sufficient young people and is not taking advantage of the ageing workforce or retaining enough women.

The Workforce Ageing in the New Economy: A Comparative Study of IT Employment found that:
* More than 80 per cent of UK IT staff are under 45, and more than half are younger than 35.
* The number of under-25s entering the industry has nearly halved since 1995 - but in Germany it has almost trebled.
* The number of women in UK IT has dropped from 100,900 in 1999 to just 53,700 in 2003.

The report says the working culture in IT is unsustainable as the wider workforce ages, and claims that industry leaders recognise the problem but have done little to change.

'They argue for the development of human resource practices which attract and nurture talent from a much broader pool of labour,' it says.

'However, employers appear to have few incentives to introduce such innovative measures.'

The study says that employment patterns for IT differ widely from the rest of the UK, with less opportunities for part-time and flexible working, which is a factor in the lower levels of women and older people in the industry.

The research is the first phase of a three-stage project that will be completed in 2006.

The second phase will involve case studies of IT firms, looking at working practices, skills strategies and employment issues.

The final phase will study international best practice in the IT industry. It will assess the effectiveness of human resource strategies and public policies, considering the sometimes contradictory demands of remaining competitive and retaining talented workers.

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