Employers believe that IT graduates coming out of education lack the required level of business acumen, according to a new report.

The Open University report ‘Developing professionalism in new IT graduates? Who needs it?’ revealed that 43 percent of employers were concerned with how little knowledge potential applicants had about business operations.

To address this, the report suggests that higher education providers should work with the IT industry to create flexible career development tools to supplement IT graduates’ technical skills with managerial and business skills. The Open University also encouraged employers to see this as an ongoing effort.

“With future UK IT growth likely to focus primarily on high-value business-focused roles, it’s vital for the future economic contribution of our sector that work-based learning is incorporated into the development of our IT professionals right from the start,” said Kevin Streater, co-author of the report and executive director for IT and Telecom at The Open University.

Streater’s report follows recent research from recruitment agency Hays, which concluded that employees need to be more proactive at developing their own skills in order to fill skills shortage areas like those in IT.

Hays’ survey of 500 private sector employees – a breakdown of sectors was not available – found that the majority of respondents (60 percent) said they only used trade magazines and seminars to keep their skills up-to-date, with only a third enrolling on specialist courses or looking to obtain relevant qualifications.

A significant number, 37 percent, are not doing anything to ensure that their skills match the industry’s needs.

Andrew Bristow, manager at Hays Information Technology, said that IT workers can find the fast-moving nature of the sector makes it challenging to keep skills up-to-date.

“Generally people in IT are very curious, enjoy learning and understand they are part of a dynamic industry. However, because it is constantly evolving, IT professionals tell us that they find it difficult to identify what skills will be needed in the future and don’t want to invest time and money in courses that may quickly become out of date.”

However, Hays said that employers also need to do their bit, and improve their communication to workers about what skills are needed.

Fifty-five percent of respondents said they did not know, or were unsure about, the skills employers are likely to demand in the next five years, while 46 percent were concerned that their existing skills would not meet employers’ expectations in five years’ time.

“Workers in smaller companies may have to be more proactive to ensure they get access to the right courses and training support because it is less likely that there will be a formal programme in place,” said Bristow.

He added that the skills that are always in demand in IT are those in technical and programming.

“Workers specialising in Java, .Net, C++ and business intelligence technologies are always sought after.

“The number of infrastructure-based roles has increased and is likely to continue doing so due to the fact that virtualisation and remote access technologies are becoming more widely available, financially convenient and easy to implement and install,” Bristow said.