Robert Chapman argues that the government's focus on basic IT training is misplaced, and that the real demand lies with higher level skills. Read his full letter to the editor and add your own views here...
The Government has announced its aim to raise basic IT literacy levels. This may get the public vote, but shows a distinct lack of understanding about where the real problem lies.
There are already many schemes to teach basic skills to children and young adults (such as the ECDL, having PCs in every school and library). By contrast, there is precious little funding for adults to get the sophisticated knowledge they need to progress their IT careers.
Many commentators wrongly link statistics on high-level job shortages with other figures relating to gaps in IT skills. It is naïve to think that raising the number of people with rudimentary IT skills will have an impact on the mature technology jobs market.
You would never make everyone get a driving licence in order to fill a shortage of Formula One drivers. With technology, as with race car driving, the way to fill a high-level skills gap is to cross-train people who already have an aptitude for the job. If the Government is to build a truly productive workforce and become a world leader in technology, it must nurture the skills-base it already has, not work from the bottom of the chain.
Those with an interest in careers in IT, and who are already equipped with basic skills, often find themselves squeezed up against a glass ceiling because of lack of personal funds and no support from the Government. These are the people who can drive forward UK plc and must be also be given a helping hand. In return for high-level training, their contribution to industry will undoubtedly reap a tangible return on investment.
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