Tailored plans set to plug IT skills gap

A fresh push on vocational initiatives from the sector skills council e-skills UK, including a new degree with better-structured work placements and more involvement in schools -is set to help employers address long-running skills gaps in IT.

The Information Technology Management for Business degree launches this September in four universities, and will produce 1,000 graduates a year by 2008, according to Karen Price, chief executive of e-skills UK.

It is one of the key planks in the IT industry’s sector skills agreement (SSA), along with the planned roll-out of an out-of-school programme, called Computer Clubs for Girls (CC4G) to some 150,000 10 to 14-year-olds, and a new vocational IT diploma as an alternative route for GCSE and A-level pupils.

Employer involvement in the SSA has been high, which reflects the acute level of skills shortages facing the IT sector. According to e-skills research, more than one-quarter of businesses lack staff with the everyday IT skills to do their jobs.

Work placements for the business degree have been designed to do much more than simply provide students with on-the-job experience.

“[Employers] are so keen on the content of the degree, there are almost fights breaking out as to who will have students on work placements,” said Price. “What we’re providing is so closely aligned to what employers need, they really want these students.”

In most cases, students will do regular placements throughout their three-year courses, although some universities may look to offer a programme over four years, of which one is the placement year.

Employer involvement is the common thread running through all IT programmes in the SSA. The design of the new IT diploma’s curriculum, which will feature ‘fit for purpose’ work placements when it is piloted in 2007, will begin with employers this summer, according to Price.

Meanwhile, the IT, interpersonal and business skills girls learn in the computer clubs programme has been specified by employers.

“We will be sending volunteers to help support CC4G and the work placements as well as supporting the delivery of the degree,” said Duncan Mitchell, Cisco System’s vice-president and managing director, UK and Ireland. “I urge other employers to do the same.”

Employers can get more information at www.e-skills.com/exchange

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