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IT Skills Shortages and Shortsightedness about Diversity in Tech

Currently around 5% or 1.3M of the UK working population are employed in some form of IT based role.  This is one of the highest percentages across Europe according to Eurostat figures published in 2017.   Several industry watchers are now saying that up to 60% of hiring managers who are looking employ people into IT positions are struggling to fill their vacancies.  The numbers of students leaving our universities with IT/ICT qualifications is at a virtual standstill, and, whilst we had a nice up-tick of people taking up apprenticeship opportunities in IT, that number has now declined substantially.   IR35 changes are causing some employers to think more seriously about whether they employ contractors, once a stable feature of the IT shop, or move to a more fixed term headcount solution.  Finally, the word on the streets from some EU candidates suggests that companies are turning away from EU candidates because they are unsure about the future following the UK’s exit from the EU.

All of this suggests that we need to act quickly to find more skilled individuals to work within our datacentres and application development teams.  We need to ensure that AI’s promise is fulfilled, and that we ‘man’ (or ‘woman’!) our cyber, data and analytics teams with people from unusual sources.

There is a big untapped group of people that we should be looking at.   Women currently make up only 17% of the IT workforce, a number which, sadly, doesn’t change – despite the skills shortages.  According to the BCS’ white paper on Diversity released at the end of last year, the IT shops across the country only employ 21% of people over 50, despite 31% of the workforce being that age.   We also fail to take advantage of the population with disabilities, currently only employing 8% of that group despite their making up 12% of the working population. The figures on ethnicity look better, but, when you check the regional variations, only London really excels when it comes to employing non-white workers.

All of this is short sighted.  It may be the result of honestly held but unhelpful biases, but we need to make progress on all of these figures.    The government made it acceptable to run positive action campaigns to shift static figures in the 2011 amendment to the Equal Opportunities Act of 2010.  Let’s take advantage of the skills shortage and the current environment to really make a positive change for IT in 2018!

The BCS report on Diversity in IT can be found at:   http://www.bcs.org/category/19217