Opinion

Yet another skills shortage, why can't we try something different?

I'm starting to get heartily sick of stories about skills shortages, usually around the latest technological trend. There's one on the MicroScope website today (22 February) about cloud computing which suggests the supply of consultants and developers has dried up even as job openings have risen by 40% since February 2010.

Yesterday, there was a survey in the FT of 500 private companies that found almost 60% would not be interested in hiring ex-public sector staff despite the fact the government's plans are likely to flood the market with hundreds and thousands of them over the next four years. Just over half of them didn't think ex-public sector workers were suitable to work in their businesses.

Surely it would make sense to invest in people inhouse and those who are out of work (whether from the public or private sector) to gain cloud computing skills on the job than hang around waiting for people to come out of colleges with the right pieces of paper. In the early days of most professions and trades, people learned as they went along and gained experience firsthand. There;s a temptation for too many industries, including IT, to fall back on the comfort blanket of seeking qualifications when it should be re-educating people in the workforce instead.

And here's a strange thing. I bet there are quite a few of those bosses at private firms who insist so strenuously on qualifications and skills for something which is still in its infancy like cloud computing, that would believe they could do a better job than most teachers for example. The government seems to think so too with its plans to allow people who aren't qualified as teachers to teach children in its new free schools.

Here's my question: If it's good enough for our children's education, it must be good enough for business, surely?

This was first published in February 2011

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