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CBI calls for action over IT skills gap

Simon Quicke

The CBI has called for more efforts to be made to help bridge a growing skills gap with the business group suggesting a cut in fees for students attending IT, science and engineering courses.

The business lobby group has issued a warning that there are already signs that the UK's chance to compete in some of the emerging industries around technology and engineering face being compromised by a lack of skilled staff coming into the workplace.

As a result the CBI has a number of proposals including reducing fees on some courses to attract more students, encouraging more apprenticeships and retraining programmes as well using UK Commission for Employment and Skills funding to retrain older workers in some of the critical areas facing problems getting hold of skilled staff.

“Growth and jobs in the future will depend on the UK having a workforce that can exploit new technologies and discoveries. The growing skills vacuum is threatening the recovery, as demand from firms is outstripping supply," said Katja Hall, CBI chief policy director.

“Highly-skilled workers are essential for our growth sectors and it will be those young people with science and maths who will go on to become the engineers and new tech entrepreneurs of tomorrow," she added.

Last week IBM said that there were already in-house shortages of staff at customers that meant the channel was being leant on much more to step into the gap to help firms move towards the cloud and roll out mobility.

The CBI skills warning was also backed by others in the industry that expressed fears that areas like cyber security were being threatened by the prospect of a shortage of people that could master the technology.

“Since the late 1990s the number of UK-born graduates studying mathematics and science degrees has fallen by almost 70%.  During the same period there has been a dramatic increase in the number of IT and Information Security graduates in emerging economies, specifically India and China, which has led to an increasing shortage of relevant skills and has put the UK's efforts to tackle growing cyber security risks on a back foot," said mark Brown, director of information security at EY.


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