Britain Faces Huge Tech Worker Shortage

The information technology and telecom sector in Britain requires 140,000 new workers annually, but student numbers are falling

The good news is the UK's IT & telecoms sector is thriving. The bad news is 140,000 newbies are likely to be needed annually to satisfy the industry's demand for increasingly skilled staff.

That's according to research from industry skills body e-skills UK, which notes computing student numbers in the UK are falling - down 50 per cent in the last five years. Meanwhile, the number of women in the sector is falling - down to just one in five workers.

e-skills UK predicts just 19 per cent of the sector's new recruits will come direct from education. More than half will be experienced workers transferring in from other occupations - and this puts fresh focus on training, it said.

Karen Price, CEO of e-skills UK, said as some IT activities move out of the country to lower cost nations, the UK's IT & telecoms sector must look to other industries to plug its skills gap by reskilling and upskilling workers.

She said in a statement: "The forecasts for continued industry growth uncovered by our research are very encouraging. But beneath these forecasts lies a complex picture of restructuring and skills shift."

Paul Coby, CIO, British Airways and chair of the e-skills UK CIO Board, said business and technology skills training must improve "at all levels".

He said in a statement: "This means producing not just highly skilled IT professionals but business and public leaders who are IT savvy, and a workforce across all industries that is trained and able to use technology."

The research, entitled UK IT & Telecoms Insights 2008, predicts the majority of employment growth for jobs in the sector will be in IT management, IT strategy and software - especially project management, systems architecture, business process, change management, security and risk management.

Customer and business-oriented skills will also be in increased demand, along with advanced technical capability.

Around a fifth (22 per cent) of companies in the sector looking to recruit staff said they are finding it difficult to attract applicants with the right skills, the research found.

e-skills UK's Price added: "The importance of IT & telecoms to the UK means that skills gaps and shortages have a huge knock-on effect for the rest of the economy."