The IT Skills Shortage: What Can Be Done?

Skilled IT professionals were the first to step out on their own and become ‘contractors’, and, as many professions have since followed suit, there continues to be a skill shortage as the first IT contractors are now looking to retire, and those coming up through the ranks are still not at the skill level required. The IT and technical skills shortage in the UK is receiving prolific coverage in the news, and we’ve discussed this subject in some depth in previous articles. More and more stories continue to circulate concerning this topic though, so what exactly can be done? Here are two important lines of thought that are aiming to address this pressing issue.

Women in IT

Women in IT

One huge and relatively untapped resource that could be utilised to assuage the dearth of IT-adepts is the female workforce, as this is one highly significant group that has always been under-represented in the IT industry across the globe. According to Contractor UK, only 17% of the IT contractor market is female, with a lack of ‘safety’ benefits like maternity leave or non-guaranteed pay being pinpointed as possible reasons why women might be avoiding the IT contractor market. However, these suggestions are by no means the only issues at stake.

In actual fact, the flexibility of IT contracting can be absolutely ideal for a female professional, and many employers are now attempting to raise the profile of IT vacancies to feminine audiences. Some firms are even advertising for exclusively female vacancies, yet a highly problematic factor is that only a tiny fraction of women have actually pursued IT studies in their education, so there is a real need to enthuse young women about the possibilities of a career in IT at a much earlier age. Until that happens, this existing shortage of female IT workers will be difficult to overturn.

Children in IT

Better IT Education

Sir James Dyson is attempting to address the well-documented engineering shortage by adjusting the way that schools teach ‘engineering skills’ at a young age. In this case, the problem appears to be that young children adopt many incorrect assumptions relating to engineering in early life, and these mistaken opinions then serve to put them off pursuing an engineering career (even if they have an aptitude for it). The situation is actually very similar for the IT sector. Many IT businesses bemoan the fact that the IT curriculum doesn’t prioritise skills that are useful in ‘real’ working environments, so there is a need to address this problem at an early age.

To combat this concern, the IT curriculum has actually been totally overhauled, and as of this September pupils aged 5 years or more will be tutored in topics like coding and algorithms. The full story is reported on The Guardian website, and whilst these subjects may seem complex for the young pupils – or indeed many teachers – to grasp, their inclusion in primary school environments could well give rise to many more well-rounded IT experts in the future. This is clearly intended to serve as a long-term solution, but it is certainly a very effective one.

Obviously, there is some way to go to solve the lack of available skills within the UK IT industry, and the solution is liable to take time, but one advantage of this situation is that experienced contractors within the IT sector are likely to find their skills in great demand. As a result, finding consistent IT contracts shouldn’t be too difficult – businesses are most probably queuing up for your experience, after all – but that’s not the only obstacle to overcome when running an efficient IT contracting business.

Here at ICS, our specialist team of contractor accountants can help you using a variety of administrative, accountancy and payroll services, meaning that you are left with far more time to apply your expertise within a working environment, rather than becoming distracted by additional concerns. To find out more, please don’t hesitate to contact our team now by calling 0800 195 3750 or emailing info@icsuk.com.