A government-subsidised postgraduate course will help IT staff broaden their business skills in a tough employment market, according to IT skills council e-skills.

The IT Professional Development Programme, run by e-skills and currently on offer at two universities, has been designed by employers to “fast-track” new graduates trying to bridge the most reported skills gaps.

Four in ten employers have complained that IT graduates do not have enough business management and interpersonal skills, e-skills said, and this course aims to help students develop the skills.

Undergraduate students on a separate degree course, also run by e-skills and called IT Management for Business, last month told CIO UK sister title Computerworld UK the course would help them develop the management skills to be more employable.

On the new postgraduate IT PDP course, students follow six modules that address project management, commercial and IT issues. The modules are: IT professional foundations, problem solving for business analysis, leadership and personal skills development, management of change, IT project management, and business solution design and development.

The 18-month course will help them continue studying for further IT specialisms or even a masters degree, e-skills said.

The course can be studied through the Open University or the Lancaster University Management School. It costs £4,500, but half of this is now covered by a government subsidy. The first term begins in August 2009, and 75 places are available.

Offshoring had “removed entry level jobs that traditionally built skills and experience,” e-skills said in an invitation to IT staff to join the course. It was crucial for staff to tackle this by training to improve their skills, it said.

Angela Morrison, IT and change director at supermarket Sainsbury’s, spoke out in support of the course: “At Sainsbury's, we need people who not only have technical skills, but also understand our business and stakeholders, are able to manage suppliers and to lead people through a constantly changing IT environment. The e-skills IT Professional Development Programme makes it possible for us to grow these people.”

Sainsbury’s helped develop the programme, alongside airline BA, utility Centrica, and IT firms BT, EDS and IBM.