John Lewis IT director Paul Coby has argued that the UK needs to fix the skills crisis facing the IT industry before it causes serious damage to the UK economy.
Coby is somewhat of a heavyweight in the IT industry. Before starting his role at John Lewis in 2011, Coby spent more than a decade at BA. He is also the chair of IT association and skills body e-Skills UK.
Speaking exclusively to V3, Coby said when recruiting for IT professionals, certain skills are tough to find.
"It's very hard to get the right professionals in certain areas. For instance online experts, security experience and good project managers are challenging to find in the current market," said Coby.
"If you look at the numbers, the globalised world is a run of British success stories in technology, and the demand for skilled IT professionals is very considerable. E-Skills expects that in the run-up to 2020, there will be twice as much demand for IT professionals as there will be for other business professionals. So attracting highly skilled recruits to the industry is essential to national prosperity. This really matters."
Coby said that John Lewis will be launching a technology apprenticeship scheme to help give younger generations more IT expertise. The 18-month scheme will initially only be available for five apprenticeships, but Coby said John Lewis hopes to increase the intake next year.
"This is something I am very excited about. We will recruit the apprentices right after their A-Levels. After they have joined, they will spend two weeks working on the shop floor so they get a good feel for what the business is about. Then we will support them in taking some generally available courses from [training provider] QA Apprenticeships and we will add some John Lewis-specific training to this too."
John Lewis has been expanding its IT team under Coby's leadership. Last year the retailer took on 50 new IT recruits to step up the multi-channel shopping experience it offers customers.
V3 is currently running a Make IT Better campaign to improve computing learning in schools and fix the skills crisis facing the IT industry.
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