A dramatic overhaul of IT education and better employer investment in training are vital if the UK’s chronic IT skills shortage is to be addressed, according to the UK and Ireland’s Linux Professional Institute (LPI) certification providers Future Cert.
In a new white paper, Future Cert argues that a double-whammy of factors is taking its toll. Traditional education methods are too theoretical and ignore the knowledge, skills and abilities required by 21st Century employers, they say. At the same time, employers are perpetuating IT skills shortages by failing to support IT staff with the training and development needed to grow their organisations. In addition to this, research conducted amongst recruiters and job-seekers points out that employers are still failing to pay salaries that demonstrate a value in professional expertise and qualification, over ‘time on the job’.
Bill Quinn, Managing Director of Future Cert, says: “The best IT training should combine academic rigour, commercial application and Open Source technologies. A large proportion of the world’s technology solutions use Open Source, so having a skilled workforce that can service them is vital. Technology moves fast, particularly in these days of cyber attack. Wise employers ensure that their IT workforce have cutting-edge skills. Those who fail to invest in relevant, high quality IT training will see a negative impact on growth.”
Research* for the white paper amongst IT Department Heads and IT Managers reveals the extent of skills shortages.
93% of employers indicated that skills gaps were negatively affecting at least one critical business area such as staff productivity, IT security, and customer service or customer engagement and 90% had faced difficulties recruiting workers with the required skills in the last 12 months.
57% of IT professionals surveyed attached very high or high importance to achieving Open Source certification. Over six in ten (68%) believed that Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) is essential to allow freedom of choice, remove vendor lock-in and allow IT professionals to deliver the best solutions for businesses and organisations.
However, almost four in ten (39%) respondents said they’d like to do more IT training and nearly a third (29%) felt their employer could be doing more to improve their knowledge and skills. Almost 40% of employees felt their employer either doesn’t provide enough IT training or doesn’t provide any IT training at all. Only 7% said they had received a salary increase as a result of gaining professional certification.
One participant explained: “My understanding (as a lowly employee type) is that the IT industry is unwilling to pay, shall we say, reasonable market rates for IT skills. Job adverts ask for considerable skills but the salary offered doesn’t relate to what is required or the expertise that can be proven by certification.”
“As Cloud-based solutions become more prevalent, and more applicable to cyber disruption, and with Open Source the main underlying technology in Cloud-based solutions, these shortages are going to become more critical unless addressed,” says Bill Quinn, at Future Cert.
The report also looked at all major UK political parties, in the run up to and after the 2017 General Election. Whilst all of the parties were full of plans and suggestions, in the months since the General Election, there has been a sudden silence, in the press, on the actions being taken to address the IT skills gap.
The report’s key recommendations for employers are:
- To build certification of their existing IT staff into training budgets and plans
- To be more vocal in calling for certification to be incorporated into IT education at the earliest possible opportunity, so that students leave school, Further and Higher Education with IT skills and knowledge they can apply in a 21st Century workplace.
- To request certification when recruiting
- To ensure that certification is rewarded, both in terms of salaries and support with on-the-job training costs
- To partner with local educational facilities to provide better, accredited in-house training
The report’s key recommendations for educators are:
- To inspire creativity to solve problems though IT, rooted in practical application;
- To improve training/CPD for teachers of the new computing curriculum to ensure their knowledge and skills are relevant to the economy’s needs;
- To build Certification into every IT degree course and Apprenticeship;
- To foster stronger links between education/training providers and employers;
- To move away from classroom-based learning to offer more flexible learning packages;
- To learn lessons from forward-thinking providers who are already embedding these principles.
Download the Future Cert report at http://www.futurecert.com/itskillsgap/
*Research amongst 95 IT professionals was undertaken for Future Cert via online survey, March 2016 and developed through focus groups in May 2017. Further research and interviews were conducted, by Future Cert, with Government representatives, Heads of Department (IT), recruiters, and education leaders.