Is Britain on the Verge of an IT Crisis?

jmblog The UK’s IT industry is booming. So much so that the technology sector is outperforming the country’s economy in terms of job creation and business activity. While this is indeed good news, it brings about something of a paradox. The fastest growing tech firms are now struggling to find the talent that they need in order to flourish. More worrying is the knock-on effect this has on Britain’s core industries, whose increasing reliance on information technology puts them in a rather dubious position when faced with potential threats to security as well as any other technical challenges. The shortage of tech workers is becoming a very real problem and one that sits particularly close to home for our banks. With HSBC adding its name to an extensive list of embarrassing banking failures at the beginning of the year, it is clear that the situation needs to be addressed head on. Andrew Tyrie – the chairman of the House of Commons Treasury Committee – suggested that there is a “systematic weakness in IT infrastructure across the financial system”. The issue here is not the banks’ lack of awareness of their vulnerabilities, nor in their unwillingness to resolve them; but in the chronic shortage of qualified IT staff across the country. No longer is IT a niche career path. It has become integral to just about every organisation. The Internet economy alone is now worth £145 billion, which accounts for around 10% of the UK GDP. Which makes the current situation all the more disconcerting. One possible solution in discussion is to address the gender gap that dominates the IT workforce. Thus, encouraging more female tech talent to step forwards and to urge organisations to be hire on merit. Another key area for concern is the astonishingly small percentage of IT graduates who go on to actually pursue a career in IT, coupled with all the potential students who shy away from taking it as their chosen degree subject. Even the very definition of IT seems to be unnecessarily misconstrued, with many young people assuming that all careers in this sector are highly technical – which is simply not true. The answer then surely lies in the promotion and demystification of what it means to work in IT. Informing existing professionals of the possibilities to develop their career, as well as engaging with younger tech-minded students who may not realise the paths available to them. Either way, the sector must pull together if it is to meet its demand, before it’s too late.