UK E-envoy Alex Allan today praised attempts by an alliance of training groups to make IT "sexy" to those considering a job in the industry.
The partnership, called IT, electronics and communication (ITEC), brings together the National Training Organisations (NTOs), covering engineering manufacturing, IT, telecoms, broadcast and new media. E-Envoy Allan takes up the role of ITEC chairman.
Launching the partnership, Allen said it represents a major drive to improve the image of IT professionals among women, students and school leavers. Allan said a report published last year ranked computer jobs as the least sexy of all occupations.
The group's objectives are to develop a new skills strategy for ITEC, improve analysis of the skills employees need to develop and to forecast future needs, increase work experience placements and develop IT graduate apprenticeship schemes.
"We are determined to make the UK the best place for ecommerce. Industry needs to attract and retain high-skilled high calibre people, particularly far more women, to achieve this," said Allan.
"Despite all the glamour attracted by some startups, the overall image of jobs in IT occupations is poor. A report last year rated computer jobs as the least sexy of all occupations, lower than funeral directors. This ambitious programme will help this change this perception - ensuring Britain has the skills and new talent to thrive in the ecommerce race."
The UK government has been under steady fire from the IT industry all year following a series of unpopular decisions. First, it altered tax laws so contractors would have to pay significantly more, and is currently in retreat over legislation that would allow police to read private emails.
Observers say the government has also failed to convince that its plans to ease visa restrictions to allow foreigners with in-demand IT skills to join UK businesses goes far enough.
Susie Hughes, spokeswoman for the Professional Contractors Group, said: "The most damaging part of the government's programme, which affects ecommerce and the IT sector, is IR35. This measure will, by the government's own estimation, kill off 66,000 small businesses which were developing in the IT sector. This would have given us a significant advantage in the global ecommerce market."
"We would hope the government would look at their policy as a whole and not damage the existing expertise, although we welcome any initiatives that improve opportunities in the IT profession. However, this initiative does fit comfortably with government legislation which damages the very industry they say they are trying to help," she added.
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