A National Skills Academy for IT will be launched in late 2010, with the backing of a £7.9 million government grant.

The academy is being developed by sector skills council e-skills, alongside a number of businesses including British Airways, BT, Sainsbury’s, EDS, IBM, Accenture, Oracle and Whitbread. The government grant will be supplied over three years.

The aim of the academy is to help the more than one million IT professionals in the UK to have opportunities to develop their skills. Its business plan has been approved by the Cabinet Office, and development will begin next month.

It will provide IT professionals with access to industry courses and qualifications that cover technical, business and communications skills. It also aims to make it easier for employers and IT professionals to find each other, and for professionals to find qualifications that are well-recognised by industry.

Skills minister Kevin Brennan said professionals needed high-level IT skills, and those skills were also “essential to the future of Digital Britain” and to boosting the country’s competitiveness.

Launching the academy was a “unique opportunity for employers to take collective responsibility for the skills and accreditation of the IT workforce”, according to Karen Price, chief executive at e-skills.

Paul Coby, chief information officer at British Airways, said that “the skills of our IT professionals are crucially important” to the company, with “almost everything” supported and enabled “in some way” by technology. Developing a skilled workforce was “crucially important”, he said.