Significant differences in pay between the sexes, a lack of career structure and little commitment to training by employers are damaging the IT help desk and support industry, experts have warned.
Female help desk and IT support staff earn an average of 15 per cent less than their male counterparts, according to the results of a survey commissioned by the Help Desk Institute (HDI) and VCM, the organisers of the Helpdesk and IT Support Show to be held at Olympia next week.
The average salary for male help desk and support professionals stands at £34,960, compared with £30,200 for their female counterparts.
The survey also found a lack of investment in staff development, which commentators have criticised as short-termist and lacking in professionalism. Almost a third of the survey's 916 respondents said they had received no training at all in the past 12 months.
Bob Rosen, organiser of the Helpdesk and IT Support Show, blamed the economic climate for slashed training budgets, but warned that employers would lose out in the long run.
"The amount of money in the training pot is woefully short of where it needs to be," he said. "But of those who received training, a significant number said it helped increase their salary, get a promotion or do a better job.
"There's a definite change in the skill sets needed for help desk staff. Companies increasingly want to take out the middleman and get people to talk directly to an IT technician with customer-facing skills.
"It may improve the experience for the person ringing, but the challenge is offering career progression to help desk staff."
Howard Kendall, founder of HDI Europe, said training issues were a major factor in the high levels of turnover in the industry. A mere 11 per cent of help desk supervisors had been in their role for more than four years, and 51 per cent of had been with their current employer for less than two years.
"It's to be expected that support professionals lose motivation if they receive no training at all. Senior management then complains about the cost of recruitment and skilling up new people who then leave because they don't receive any training," Kendall said.
Paul Andrews, a director at Church International, a recruitment company specialising in IT help desk and support roles, said cost-cutting highlighted a blinkered approach on the part of employers.
"You should be developing the people you have because you can't afford to take on more people. Too many companies have a very short view. It's damaging the industry," he said.
"The help desk is the front line dealing with internal users and external customers. If you don't invest in training and career paths, what do you get?"
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