Large UK businesses say they, not the government, are responsible for developing the next generation of IT leaders.
At a meeting of 30 IT executives and 150 IT management students, senior representatives from Transport for London, Deloitte, Procter & Gamble and CA told CIO UK sister title Computerworld UK that attempts to fight a skills shortage depended on their own actions, though they wanted government support.
The event, at IT management software firm CA’s headquarters in Slough, was run by e-skills UK, which co-ordinates the IT Management for Business degree, a mixture of IT and management skills.
Phil Pavitt, chief information officer at Transport for London, which co-ordinates all of the capital’s public transport systems, said the government had “no idea” of the reality of IT recruitment.
“We need, as employers, to get down on the ground level to show students where they can work in IT, and the exciting things they can do,” he said.
Transport for London takes on 100 IT graduates each year, he said, but it remained “desperate to get people into IT”.
“There’s a real shortage of IT people who can speak to business executives that don’t know technology, and of IT people who can develop those relationships,” he said. The government needed to back employers who train IT graduates, he said.
Karen Winney, director of business services at the UK & Ireland arm of consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble, agreed there was a serious skills gap of “strong project management staff with technology skills”.
“If you approach IT with a traditional mindset, there’s an image problem [among students] ,” she said. “It’s up to us to solve it by having courses like these and recruiting the future CIOs who have those leadership skills.”
The government helped IT skills body e-skills fund the development of the ITMB course, and prime minister Gordon Brown has recently placed emphasis on IT's role in helping Britain fight the recession. Such efforts were appreciated by employers, but more help is now needed, they agreed.
Rafik Ishani, senior manager of enterprise risk services at consultancy Deloitte, said: “Employers are giving the time and resources to support the course and meet regularly with its students, but we’re now at a crossroads where the government has to help more.”
ITMB is taught at 13 universities – including Loughborough, Oxford Brookes, UCL and Manchester – and recognised by a range of large businesses including British Airways, Network Rail and the BBC, which meet with students to provide advice and encouragement, and to spot future employees.
“We really want the number of employers supporting these students to grow,” said Chris Miller, UK and Ireland area manager at CA. “What’s kept this going is the determination to succeed.”
At the event, students were awarded prizes for presentations they made solving IT-related problems, such as a proposal for a business to use IT to help it combat the tough economic climate. First year students from the University of Exeter, and second years from the University of Greenwich, won cash prizes for the best team presentations.
Andrew Lawes, a first year ITMB student at the University of Exeter, won the top prize, an opportunity to “run CA for a day” alongside Miller. He was commended for his attitude to business and his enthusiasm, and was “funny, friendly, natural but not pushy, polite, smart and logical, articulate and a group player,” Miller said.