Some 85 per cent of companies are tackling IT skills shortages by investing in external training, but the sums spent may be inadequate for the problem.
According to a survey conducted on behalf of training and recruitment company Delphi Group by Bannock Consulting, the sums spent on training are insignificant compared to the scale of the problem. The skills shortage is costing larger companies more than #250,000 each a year compared to the average spend on training of just over #40,000 per company a year.
Tony Reeves, chairman & chief executive of Delphi Group, believes this is not enough. ?Training is a weapon that can be used to retain high value IT staff. Companies engender loyalty by training staff in new areas of technology. While we welcome the increased investment in training, this still averages at only around #1,000 per head."
He added: "It is also surprising that, although people recognise the costs of the skills shortage, they are only spending the equivalent of 15 per cent of these costs in training their own staff.?
John Eary, head of people and technology at National Computing Centre agrees with this view: ?I think there is not enough investment in training in the fast living times we?re in. The more enlightened firms regard training as an investment not a cost.?
He advocates that a company should take a strategic view on how to approach the problem: ?They must consider a broad range of options, looking at retraining, recruitment and how to retain skilled staff - not just by improving the financial side, but maybe looking at improving their working environment, providing new challenges, and looking at employees' career paths and development. Companies can?t just focus on salary, especially in the public sector.?
Salaries are being driven up by the skills crisis, although the average increase in overall salary levels for IT jobs is around five per cent in the UK compared to 10 per cent in the US, according to an NCC survey. ?There are regional differences throughout the UK,? says Eary, ?with London and the south east experiencing the most activity in salary changes because the business climate is more active there.?
On the positive side, the Bannock survey - conducted among more thatn 3,000 large UK businesses and public authorities - found that 96 per cent of the companies that use external IT training are happy with the quality of services received. However, significantly fewer - 85 per cent - feel they get value for money.
Skills in shortest supply are client/server exeprtise, followed by networking, relational database, object oriented development and PC development skills. Oracle was the language/application skill in most demand.
The Year 2000 issue is aggravating the problem of IT skills shortages and is likely to push up the cost of training.
One year ago only three per cent of respondents said they had encountered problems with IT skills shortages. This year that figure has shot up sevenfold to 21 per cent as the millennium date change approaches.
The survey found that 77 per cent of businesses are not prepared for the millennium date change. However, 62 per cent of businesses that are not Year 2000 compliant have allocated a specific budget to deal with the problem - more than twice the proportion of last year. Costs for an average company are presently estimated to exceed #120,000 - more than two and a half times last year?s average. They are predicted to rise further as the date change approaches.
John Eary warns: ?Not all the millennium problems will be fixed by midnight 1999. There will still be a skills shortage because new systems will have come in so there will be a demand for new skills which will stretch to the multimedia industry.?
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