Only five per cent of women in the UK would currently consider pursuing a career in IT because the vast majority are put off by the industry's geeky, male-dominated image.
But if the pool of potential recruits is not broadened out from the stereotypical white male graduate aged 21 to 25 to include female labour, as well as school leavers and other social groups, over the next five years, the sector risks experiencing a shortfall of up to one million professionals.
This compares with the 85,000 IT-related jobs in the UK that are unfilled at the moment (the equivalent of 10 per cent). Women currently only comprise between 15 and 25 per cent of all IT professionals.
Andrew Palmer, project manager at the National Training Organisation (NTO) for IT skills, said: "By 2006, some one million new recruits may not have been attracted to or had access to entering the IT profession, which is a shortfall of 200,000 staff per annum."
"This is because the industry has not acted in a collaborative manner to address image, new recruitment pools or opportunities for people to have work experience," he added.
As a result, he explained, the NTO, which is an industry body that communicates with the UK government and undertakes projects on its behalf, has devised an e-skills Employers' Charter to help companies tackle the problem.
IBM, Microsoft, EDS, Intel and Logica, among others, have already signed up to the scheme, which will provide them with best practice guidelines on, for example, how to change the way they portray and advertise jobs or where they might approach potential new recruits, such as women returning to work after motherhood.
"The number of people that the IT industry needs to recruit is proliferating as we move away from the idea of ecommerce and ebusiness being something different, to being how we normally do business. In future, it will be the standard business tool so we're trying to give businesses the mechanism to be successful," Palmer added.
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