European e-Skills Week passed largely unnoticed last week, given the number of important issues raised during the event.
Commentators said that poor IT education in the UK is leading to a lack of adequate IT professionals, as well as a growing pool of business users unable to satisfy the technology demands of their roles, and a widening digital divide in society as a whole.
The consensus is that Europe will lose out to worldwide competitors in technology innovation unless the region radically improves IT education in schools and at university level, and will struggle in its path to economic recovery.
The week saw IT skills experts put forward ideas on how IT education can be improved, and how the profession can be better promoted to young people. The shortfall of women in the sector was also raised as a key factor in Europe's lack of IT skills, and commentators suggested ways in which school education can be changed to encourage more women into the sector.
The government has yet to respond to the issues raised. The Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives have said that the issue of e-skills is too specific to be commented on yet, but that they will have a policy by the time of the general election.
Technology trade association Intellect hosted the event in the UK beginning with a conference at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills that brought together policy makers, education experts and industry specialists.
André Richier, the principal administrator for the European Commission, led the discussion at the event, warning of a potential 350,000 shortfall in European IT practitioners by 2015. He said that only 10 per cent of all jobs in the EU will not require e-skills in five years' time, and that the number of young people enrolling on computer science courses has been declining since 2003.
Richier explained that Europe is coping with the current shortfall in IT practitioners by bringing them in from other professions, so much so that half of Europe's four million IT practitioners are not IT degree qualified.
However, Richier said this was not the answer and called for Europe to increase the professionalism of its IT workforce in order to match the expertise evident in the US and Japan and increasingly in India and China.
While Richier acknowledged that IT practitioners with degrees in other subjects can bring much needed skills to the profession, such as project management experience, he maintained the need for a professional degree in IT as well.
"You sometimes get people with no training that are cowboys or charlatans. I find that chief executives are often worried about such people," he said.
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