Almost half of organisations in the 2015 CIO 100 were actively seeking to recruit technology talent from the EU to support their business and tackle the IT skills shortage, while two thirds of the technology departments represented employed skilled EU workers, suggesting a Brexit following an EU referendum could significantly disrupt UK organisations across every industry. [Article first published 24 April 2015]
With the UK a week away from a referendum on whether the UK should remain part of the EU which was called by Prime Minister David Cameron in February, statistics from the 2015 edition of the CIO 100 - first published in April 2015 - revealed a warning from UK plc, British megabrands, global businesses, the public sector and non-profit organisations over the potential dangers of a Brexit.
Organisations among those employing EU staff in their IT teams included British Gas, Jaguar Land Rover, infrastructure projects HS2 and Crossrail, the Royal Mail, Save the Children, Thomson Reuters, Eurostar, Gatwick Airport, De Beers, Paul Smith, BT, JCB, Virgin Airways, Starbucks, Channel 4 and The National Trust. Those looking to Europe included many of the British 'megabrand' institutions listed above, along with the Financial Times, The Economist, AstraZeneca, Foster and Partners, Unilever, and the BMJ - the publishing arm of the British Medical Association.
In the 2015 CIO 100, an overwhelming 88% of CIOs responded they had pushed IT recruitment up their management agenda with 58% revealing they are finding it difficult to recruit the talent they need to drive transformation, with 47% subsequently looking to Europe to fill the gap. Some 62% ran an apprenticeship scheme to train skills in house.
The 2015 edition of the CIO 100 also revealed that the European Union was cited as a critical trading partner to some 58% of organisations, despite a significant number of public sector, housing associations and national charities being included in the CIO 100.
At the time then CIO UK Editor Mark Chillingworth said: "The attitude and behaviour of politicians in the Conservative and UKIP parties worries me. These statistics demonstrate that the UK's most important organisations, which are driving exports and bringing much needed revenue into this country, rely on a rich resource of skills.
"Putting the UK even further on the sidelines of Europe risks making the UK an uncompetitive country and we will lose our technology leadership advantage."
CIO 100 judge Ian Cox said that the limited levels of diversity in the technology industry and IT departments - and in particular gender inequality - was contributing significantly to the skills shortage.
"It is hard not to see a potential link between the challenges being faced by CIOs in recruiting and the lack of diversity in IT," the CIO UK columnist said. "If, for example, technology is not seen as a potential career by a significant majority of females then IT departments are at an immediate disadvantage in terms of the potential pool of people that may apply for a vacancy.
"The skills and roles required within IT departments are changing. As the IT function moves from being a technology and service provider to a technology and service broker there is less need for the hands-on technical skills that have traditionally dominated IT departments.
"Instead, more business-focused technical skills together will be required along with people-based skills such as networking, influencing and relationship management are also becoming key to many IT roles. This should make it easier to design roles that are more attractive to a broader range of candidates."
The public sector, universities and non-profit organisations were particularly prominent among those offering apprenticeship schemes. The likes of Newham Council CIO Geoff Connell, Edinburgh City Council's Claudette Jones, further education CIOs Carolyn Brown, Neil Williams and David Matthewman, and National Trust CIO Sarah Flannigan all offer training schemes, showing technology and IT apprenticeships are not confined the to the most-publicised offerings at organisations like John Lewis and Thomson Reuters.
Hampshire County Council CIO, Jos Creese, who retired shortly after the CIO 100, said that "encouraging more IT apprenticeships" was one of his main focuses in his new role as the President of the BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT.
University of St Andrews CIO Steve Watt said that the 600-year-old institution had become the first university in Scotland to take on IT apprentices, which was recruiting from the Fife and Dundee areas and challenging the diversity of the IT department which traditionally had a strong pipeline of graduates from the high-ranking university.
Connell said that as a local authority, Newham had a "duty to help kids get work experience and get ready for employment".
"The bottom line is we have to grow our own because we can't always bring in highly-skilled people, and we also have a moral obligation to do it," he said.
Cox commented: "It is encouraging to see that almost two thirds of the top 100 CIOs have an apprenticeship scheme in place. Attracting younger people into the profession is a key part of ensuring that IT functions create a pipeline of talent that can be developed to meet the needs of the business.
"The judging panel also saw some good examples of partnerships with colleges through which CIOs are influencing the content of syllabuses and thereby ensuring that students are acquiring the skills required for a career in corporate IT."