BT CIO Clive Selley and deputy CIO of the British Army Brigadier Alan Hill advocated developing IT know-how in-house to combat a growing IT skills gap.

At a CIO Big Conversation event in Mayfair last night on information ownership, the discussion turned to workforce development as Selley and Brigadier Hill emphasised a strategy of technology training.

But Lance Fisher, CIO of recruitment agency SThree and voted European CIO of the Year in June at the European ICT awards, said that although he was able to develop the IT skills of those in project management roles to fulfil key tasks, he was also in a privileged position to leverage his firm's expertise and recruit the talent the organisation required.

BT Group CIO Selley told the attendees: "There is a skills gap now in the UK, and we're now skewing towards recruiting from maths-based backgrounds rather than computer science because data science and analytics is so key now.

"We take on 100 graduates every year and it's tough, even during a recession, to recruit 100 young men and women for the scheme. We're struggling," he said.

Selley said graduates are lacking in certain areas of development, but also that is was a worry holding on to the staff they invest in.

"The younger generation have no presumption about having a job for life any more," he said. "But if you give them good projects to work on, they tend to stay.

"But it's not just about writing Java or exploring Hadoop. I want to get graduates to have a business mindset and become commercially oriented.

"I want our department to be constantly learning, and I expect them to reinvent themselves at least once in their careers.

"When they come in we're very focused on developing business skills, because many graduates simply don't have them and people who studied computer science can be quite limited in this respect."

Brigadier Alan Hill, British Army deputy CIO

Brigadier Hill agreed, and elaborated on some of the strategy he discussed with CIO in a recent profile.

"We don't buy in a specialist; we train them," he said.

"Being able to help grow those skills is a really key part of my job."

Brigadier Hill also said that although the British Army has been behind other sectors in terms of innovation, it is catching up and sourcing ideas from its ranks to come up with new strategies.

"Innovation is tough, we're a very hierarchical structure," he said. "Brigadiers don't just get people coming up to them with ideas - it doesn't work like that."

Brigadier Hill also said that the service was using social media tools to harness their resources, where he could pose questions anonymously or through a vendor to instigate debate.