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Does Britain Lack the IT Skills to Pay the Bills?

10/04/2013 13:42 BST | Updated 10/06/2013 10:12 BST

The dust has settled on the Budget 2013 and the political fallout has been well documented. Putting politics aside and focusing on the actual issues, it's true to say Chancellor George Osbourne's Budget statement contained both positives and negatives as far as the tech industry is concerned.

One thing that's widely accepted is that this country is in the midst of an IT skills crisis. One study reveals that the UK could face a shortfall of 33,000 tech workers by 2050.1

Although this may feel like a long way off, the effects are nevertheless already being felt by British businesses. Many organisations - enterprises as well as SMEs - are struggling to find the talent they require. The cause, according to the National Audit Office, is a "decade long decline" in computer science teaching in schools.2 It has also claimed that the IT skills gap will take twenty years to close.

For those fortunate enough to track down the requisite skills, most are finding they're having to pay through the nose to acquire them. According to jobs search engine Adzuna, the tech sector accounted for more vacancies than any other, with 1.1m IT jobs advertised in 2012. Average annual wages in that period reached nearly £40,000.3

The Budget presented a golden opportunity to begin to close the gap between those who can and those who can't. However, instead of accepting that more needs to be done at a grassroots level to develop necessary IT skills, the Chancellor actually failed to reference the UK's tech industry at all. This was particularly disappointing when you bear in mind the tech sector makes up 12% of GDP (£140bn annually).

Unless significant programming skills are developed in schools, it's clear that the UK will struggle to replicate the success of other countries, such as the U.S, in producing major tech companies.

The simple fact is that over the past 12 months we have heard about how the Chancellor wants to make the UK, Europe's technology centre4 but the plan appears to be, at best, short sighted.

The long term solution is putting programming skills in the hands of every school child in the country. Our own research has shown that 92% of organisations believe adopting mobile apps will give them a competitive edge. Only 29% have a mobility project in place. There seems to be a lack of appreciation of just where these applications will be coming from.

The Chancellor needs to back his words with actions, preferably with measures prior to the Autumn Statement. Programming tools should be put in the hands of every school child in the country now. It's the only way to ensure that in a decade's time, the UK will lead the world in IT skills and not be left lagging behind.

1. Computer Business Review, 22/01/2013

http://www.cbronline.com/news/uk-could-see-a-shortage-of-over-30000-it-and-tech-workers-220113

2. V3.co.uk, 12/02/2013

http://www.v3.co.uk/v3-uk/news/2243122/uk-cyber-skills-gap-to-last-20-years-costing-nation-gbp27bn-a-year

3. Financial Times, 30/12/2012

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/b0f19e08-4b6e-11e2-88b5-00144feab49a.html#axzz2PPY1a2Dm

4. TechWorld, 21/03/2012

http://news.techworld.com/data-centre/3346047/budget-will-make-uk-europes-technology-centre-claims-chancellor/