The UK is suffering from a severe shortage in IT skills, especially in Windows NT, according to a survey carried out by market researchers, NOP Business. Commissioned by Microsoft, the IT Skills Survey also used input from the Computing Services & Software Association (CSSA) and ITNTO. The object of the research was to identify the extent of the IT skills shortage, understand why people are not getting skilled, and provide recommendations on how this issue can be addressed. The sample included a cross-section of department heads, operational staff, universities/colleges, IT contractors, IT managers and training organisations. Canvassing 1,250 suppliers and users of IT, the highest proportion (35%) believe that skills are most scarce in the network and operating systems market. Within that group, a majority of 47% are most concerned with the lack of qualified Windows NT staff. Another 23% of that group are finding it hard to find the right staff with Windows 95 skills. In contrast, only 11% wanted more Unix people and 9% wanted more people with Novell NetWare skills - the low demand figures reflect the fact that these technologies have been around for a lot longer than NT and Windows 95. According to the survey: - Windows NT was mentioned by nearly all of the training organisations and three quarters of the channel partners. IT contractors also saw it as the area in most demand (69%), suggesting that far more of those on the supply side see NT to be in demand than those who might require it (43% of IT managers). - More of those in, or working with, the finance sector (60%) saw Windows NT as being in demand, although almost as many in the retail sector (57%) agreed. - Of those that said they thought NT was the area of greatest demand, two thirds said that demand was greater than supply compared with less. Recruitment specialists within the survey, said the 'overheating' of the IT skills market has been caused by a combination of factors: - Software suppliers bombarding users with new releases - European Monetary Union and Year 2000 issues giving rise to very specific skills shortages in specific industries - Employers throwing money at the problem by paying high salaries to those who already have the necessary skills - A poor base supply, stemming from inappropriate degree courses and lack of investment in training of employees According to Andrew Wall, managing director at recruitment house, IT Prospects: "There has never been a shortage in the desktop or network support staff areas before. Over the last six months though, it has all dried up quite considerably". To illustrate how scarce qualified people are getting, Wall explained: "We are seeing people in the NT and other arenas changing jobs for 35% and 40% increases in salary". Ted Dansell, managing director of IT Recruitment Network, told PC Week: "It is now virtually impossible to find proper NT staff. I'm not even sure if the colleges have enough NT staff (to fill the gap)." In fact, to counter the problem the company has launched a mobile recruitment office to trawl the country for suitable staff (see NT news roundup). On the solution to the general skills shortage, 78% of the IT Skills Survey believed that full-time education is best placed to alleviate the current skills shortage - however, only 20% of IT managers and 13% of corporate IT managers believed that IT graduates had the skills needed for the workplace. According to the respondents developing specialist courses, rather than general computing, within colleges and universities, was seen as the best way to help cure a large proportion of the IT skills problem. "We have known for sometime now that there is a serious IT skills gap," said Debbie Walsh, skills development manager at Microsoft. "This research set out to look for causes and potential solutions. It has highlighted that business is really looking to education to solve the issue, yet this sector is, ironically, the worst hit by a shortage of skills themselves (universities are the worst hit by the skills shortage (50%)). The research clearly shows that no single party has the answer. The solution must therefore be a joint effort between education, the government and IT suppliers." Additional findings - 73% of respondents believed there was an IT skills shortage - this rose to 86% in the finance sector. - IT developers - defined as IT staff permanently employed by organisations as opposed to contractors - were the least likely to believe that there was an IT skills shortage (61%). - More IT managers (82%) in corporates (500+ employees) than department managers (63%) believed there was an IT shortage.
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