Employers have promised £2.4bn to train staff in IT skills in an attempt to close the UK’s productivity gap with France, Germany and the US.
The investment will form part of a three-year action plan launched last week by the employer-led organisation for IT skills development, E-skills UK.
Cisco Systems, IBM, British Air-ways (BA) and Ford are among the employers which have pledged money for the Sector Skills Agree-ment for IT (SSA).
BA’s chief information officer Paul Corby said the amount of investment was “staggering”.
“We are well aware of the skills shortages in the industry,” he said. “The agreement will ensure investment in IT skills development delivers maximum benefit.”
The SSA aims to improve competence by implementing three key initiatives:
- A vocational qualification, ITQ , aims to boost the skills of staff who use IT in their day-to-day jobs.
- The first ever IT employer-designed degree – the Information Technology Management for Bus-iness honours – will be launched in four universities in September. It will be rolled out to 17 more universities before 2008, and to 1,000 undergraduates each year.
- An out-of-school programme called Computer Clubs for Girls will be set up to encourage 150,000 girls, aged 10-14, to consider a career in IT.
Currently, only one in five IT professionals in the UK are women.
The plan has been broadly welcomed by employers, but chancellor Gordon Brown has been urged to support the initiative by cutting red tape.
Rod Flavell, chief executive of IT recruitment and training firm FDM, said: “It’s a great idea, but the devil is in the detail and we have to understand how it’s going to work in a framework of very bureaucratic legislation.”