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- Information technology and computing: future trends
Information technology and computing: future trends
The IT industry will continue to grow at a fast pace. As such, employment opportunities will increase and proliferate at all levels and throughout different occupational profiles. Employment in the IT industry is expected to grow at 2.19% per annum between 2010 and 2019, almost 5 times faster than the predicted average growth for the UK. Conversely, employment in the telecoms industry is expected to decline.
Research forecasts very positive trends for the sector. First of all, there will be a great increase in the use of personal devices. In terms of the UK labour market this translates to an increased need for IT and telecoms professionals who are able to understand the vulnerabilities of underlying architecture and infrastructure and to develop new security solutions. Secondly, there will be a need to develop ‘green' (sustainable) IT as a response to the more generic, intra- and inter-sectoral need to minimise the environmental impact of technology, nationally and worldwide. Thirdly, the strongest growth is likely to be in highly skilled areas, particularly software professionals along with ICT managers and IT strategy and planning professionals. By contrast, jobs such as database assistants and clerks, telecoms engineers and computer engineers are expected to continue to decline, or to remain virtually static.
Occupations in the IT and computing sector vary markedly: from highly technical roles, including programming and systems analysis, to business-related roles including project and relationship management, to creative roles, for example those involving digital technologies used in web design and development. However, employers in the sector do not just look to recruit graduates and postgraduates who have studied related disciplines. Indeed they are happy to recruit graduates with non-IT degrees into consultancy and business analysis roles, where they can apply a broad technical knowledge to commercial environments. These sought after ‘soft' skills are: communication (written and verbal) and interpersonal skills; teamwork; organisation and planning; problem solving; commercial awareness and customer focus; enthusiasm and motivation; adaptability and flexibility; willingness and an ability to learn new skills quickly.
Nonetheless more technical roles such as network engineers, software developers and programmers do require graduates with relevant technical degrees such as computer science, information systems and software engineering.
Currently there exists a skills shortage throughout the different occupational profiles in the sector. Business skills, higher level technical skills and sector knowledge/experience are often thought lacking among applicants for IT and telecoms positions. Other sought after technical skills are programming languages, operations systems knowledge, network and infrastructure understanding and development skills. There is an apparent shortage in these technical skills, which means that nine out of ten firms suffering IT and telecoms-related skills shortages are experiencing delays in the development of new products or services. Nonetheless just over one in ten employers consider there to be gaps in the skills of their IT users. As such, IT and telecoms-related skills gaps are most likely to be in the area of technical IT skills
Recent E-skills research shows that, due to the sector's importance for the UK economy, employers increasingly want to attract high quality recruits to IT and computing. Consequently postgraduates, and specifically doctoral graduates, are perfectly placed.
More facts and figures [Technology Insights 2011 - UK (2010)]:
- Around 4.4 million development units need to be delivered every year if the skills held by IT and telecoms professionals are to remain in line with those needed by UK employers.
- IT and telecoms professionals in large firms are more likely to receive education and training than those working in small and medium enterprises (SMEs) (28% and 23% respectively).
- The South East of England and Northern Ireland are the only places where IT skills training is above the average.
- It is estimated that around 4.6 million people each year will undertake some form of IT user skills training.
Doctoral study is not essential although it could provide an edge in an increasingly competitive job marketplace. Indeed, employers in the sector are increasingly looking for even better qualified workers than in the past. However, just like lower degree qualifications, a doctorate degree, even if it is very specific to the relevant occupational profile, needs to be supplemented by continuous personal skills development.
IT is a highly dynamic industry and it is crucial that workers in the sector continue training to keep their skills up to date with new technology. The IT industry is very committed to continuous personal development; indeed, according to E-skills UK, The Sector Skills Council for Business and Information Technology, half of all ICT companies and almost one third of all companies provide IT training for all employees.
On a more negative note, it is forecast that the more complex process of restructuring and skills shift that is already taking place in the UK IT and computing sector, i.e. the move of certain IT activities to lower cost countries, will continue to create challenges in terms of career paths and skills development.
Current public policy aims to spearhead the sector; two new initiatives were launched in April 2011: The new Grant for Research and Development Scheme, which aims to support small businesses to research and develop new products, processes and services that could stimulate economic growth [Technology Insights 2011 - UK (2010)]. Secondly, in this year's budget, the creation of seven technology and innovation centres (TICs) was announced, involving a £200m investment over the next four years, overseen by the Technology Strategy Board as part of its wider programme of investment in innovation.
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