Analysts predict shortfall of 40,000 IT workers by 2008

The UK will face a shortage of 40,000 people with network technology skills by 2008 unless urgent action is taken to address the issue, analysts have warned.

Network technology, such as ‘voice over internet’ systems and wireless devices, is becoming increasingly popular with employers, but a report found there are not enough skilled staff to use it.

The survey of 950 IT directors across 31 European countries, by analyst firm IDC, shows that 60% of organisations use the technology to underpin business processes and communicate with customers, partners and suppliers. The majority (80%) see the importance of the network increasing in the future.

But the report, commissioned by internet services firm Cisco Systems, also shows that across the continent there will be a shortage of up to half a million people with the relevant skills by 2008.

The UK faces a shortfall of 40,000 people by 2008, representing a 9.3% skills gap. In a third of the 31 countries surveyed, demand for these skills will outstrip supply by more than 20% in 2008, with Eastern European countries facing the widest shortfalls.

This could hinder Europe’s competitiveness in the global market, the report warns.

Marianne Kolding, analyst at IDC, said there was a need to attract students and unemployed people back into IT-related jobs.

“The model developed in the late 1990s – [involving] collaboration between employers, the IT industry, and government bodies – may again prove to be a valuable approach for addressing the development and training of new skills in the coming years,” she said.

The UK has already adopted this approach with the recent launch of the first employer-backed business IT degree, spearheaded by sector skills council E-skills UK.

Responding to the findings of the IDC research, Karen Price, chief executive of E-skills UK, said: “A shortage of skills and an inability to exploit technology to its maximum benefit prevents companies from innovating as fast as their competitors. This hinders not only the individual company, but [also] the UK’s overall productivity and economic prosperity.”

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