Formal links between NVQs and vendor qualifications could ease skills shortages in the computing sector, as a scheme launched this month aims to prove. By Elaine Essery
Results of a study carried out by e-skills NTO are set to boost qualification levels and increase skills in the IT services sector.
Published at the beginning of this month, the findings are the outcome of a one-year project funded by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) to map the content of IT vendor qualifications against the standards required for NVQs.
Vendor qualifications built around large companies’ products and services are commonplace and well-respected in the sector, and some cross-recognition exists.
But they dominate the industry at the expense of competence-based, nationally-recognised NVQs.
In the past two to three years, there has been much discussion about the links between the two types of qualification which prompted e-skills NTO to set up the project to examine the issue formally. The NTO teamed up with major players Cisco, Microsoft and Novell to focus on their certification and the Level 3 NVQs which tie in most closely with them - Developing IT Systems and Customer Systems Support.
E-skills NTO project manager Andrew Gibbons says, "We’re showing exactly how the qualifications link and where the common areas are. What that means for users of qualifications is that if they have, say, Novell certification and they’re working towards an NVQ they can see how the knowledge they already have counts towards it. The outcome we’re hoping for is an increased take-up of NVQs which will help address skills shortages in the sector."
Moves to help tackle the serious issue of skills shortages are vital. Labour market intelligence for the South East - which has the highest concentration of IT services companies - reveals that 38 per cent of these reported a skills gap in their workforce that was adversely affecting their business.
But although firms perceive a shortfall in skill levels, they show a reluctance to address it. Small companies - and 80 per cent of firms in the sector employ fewer than 20 staff - are less likely to train, and under 5 per cent of all IT services firms have Modern Apprentices. Heavy reliance on recruitment from within the industry only exacerbates the problem.
It creates a spiral of competition for