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Skills gaps reported in NI; but UK IT businesses suffer less than rest of industry

Students are shunning technology-based courses in Northern Ireland prompting employers to take “urgent action” to tackle the growing IT crisis.

Research revealed by Sector Skills Council e-skills UK shows that the IT industry in Northern Ireland looks set to develop at three times the rate of overall employment growth over the next 15 years.

Yet more than a quarter of employers said that their staff lacked basic IT skills.

In light of this, e-skills UK, educators and government have developed a three-year Sector Skills Agreement (SSA) for IT, in order to reduce the skills deficit. The plan includes implementing the SSC’s “Passport” assessment tool to support government policies in qualifications reform and FE provision.

Karen Price, CEO of e-skills UK, said: “Businesses and the entire Northern Ireland economy are dependent on having a workforce with the right IT skills. The SSA for IT has united employers and other partners in a coherent strategy and action plan for IT skills improvement”.

“This is not just about improvements in the IT sector, but about helping businesses in every sector which depend increasingly on IT for their success, and supporting Northern Ireland’s long term economic prosperity”.

Michael Crow, Head of Application Services (Northern Ireland), Fujitsu Services said: “The SSA for IT aims to support the continued growth of Northern Ireland as a vibrant IT-enabled economy. The strategy set out in the Agreement is backed by industry leaders from companies across all business sectors in Northern Ireland – companies who recognise the importance of IT skills in fuelling business growth both now and in the future”.

“Fujitsu has a proud record of investment in Northern Ireland and is committed to supporting this Agreement”.

However, statistics released by e-skills on the UK IT industry show that less than one in ten telecommunications employers reported having gaps in the skills of their IT users and ICT professionals.

7% of telecommunications employers reported skills gaps amongst their IT users and 6% reported gaps amongst their ICT professionals; this compares to 17% and 11% respectively for the wider business community.

Further, the average hourly earnings for telecommunications industry workers sits at £16, compared to £14 for the “UK norm”.

There is also a greater gender imbalance noted for the sector: 33% of “Telecoms” company employees are female, compared to 47% for the wider UK workforce.

Natalie Cheers.

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