IT skills gap holding back UK businesses

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Almost half (45%) of UK businesses are experiencing an “extensive” shortage of IT talent, which is hampering productivity, according to research by IT skills and training body CompTIA.

The International Technology Adoption and Workforce Trends Study, which surveyed more than 1,500 IT executives, found 44% of them worry staff productivity is being negatively affected by digital skills gaps. Almost a third (30%) said insufficient skills are impacting on customer services. More than a quarter (27%) said IT skills gaps are slowing speed to market and 26% reported they are impeding innovation and new ideas.

To fill these skills gaps, 28% of IT professionals said they plan to hire more IT staff this year, up from 14% in 2014.

Beyond skills shortages, cybersecurity is a top concern for UK businesses, as 63% of respondents said the threat of cyber attacks is increasing. Almost half (48%) blame human error, including greater use of social media, for this rise.

Spending on IT security will be a top technology priority for 58% over the next year.

Head of BT Security Academy Rob Partridge called for the industry to look beyond university degrees and focus more on vocational qualifications such as online learning and apprenticeships.

Mike Brooman, director at audio-visual and IT consultancy Vanti, said his business had struggled to find skilled staff.

“With such a disruptive IT market, we fully appreciate it is difficult for the education sector to keep up with the pace of technological innovation on its own,” he said. “We are testing a number of alternative hiring routes, including apprenticeships and industry certifications, so we can train people to our standards in-house rather than try to compete in an over-inflated and ill-equipped graduate market.”

CompTIA UK director for member communities Estelle Johannes added: “The impact of the skills gap threatens the livelihood of businesses across the country, from information security to customer service, and more needs to be done to tackle this growing problem. But building and managing talent requires a concerted effort, resources and time. There is rarely a quick fix to addressing skills gaps.”

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