General Election 2015: Politicians urged to do more to support IT industry

Without more investment in IT skills, the UK technology sector could "fizzle and fade", industry figures have warned ahead of tomorrow's election.

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Politicians must do more to support the UK IT sector to help stay competitive internationally, industry figures have warned.

Ahead of the election tomorrow, at a roundtable at BCS, the chartered institute for IT, representatives from academia and industry said politicians should invest more into technology skills, from school to higher education, and plan ahead more strategically.  

“Last year the IT industry lost 114,000 jobs and there are still shortages of around 125,000 people. It is possible in five years we won’t have an industry left, if we keep haemorrhaging jobs,” said Dr Jon Hall, senior computing lecturer at the Open University.

“We see growth in places like India and others you wouldn’t imagine because their governments are spending a lot of money training their people up. It’s because they are investing. It’s because of schools,” said Melindi Britz, senior manager at IT trade association CompTIA.

The panellists welcomed the government’s IT apprenticeship scheme, which covers areas like cyber security and software testing. However they said there needs to be a more strategic “vision for the future” to review how best to support the IT sector and ensure UK citizens have the skills it needs.

“One of the best things a politician could do is an A-Level in computing. Sit in the classroom, get the books out, do the work and see just how poor or how good that education is,” Hall said.

“Politicians used to talk about their vision for the future…hopefully on Friday we can start talking about that vision again,” he said.

“That’s not just buying a few computers for schools,” Capita IT Professional Services’ coach Stephen Allott added.

Politicians should play more of a coordinating role bringing together the academic and business worlds and “getting them round the table”, Dr Arosha Bandara, senior computing lecturer at the Open University, said.

They need to to work together to find right balance between long-term skills and more fast-moving, immediate needs and specific technical abilities required by industry, he said.

The panellists suggested senior IT industry figures should send a letter to whoever emerges as prime minister over the coming days.

The letter should say there needs to be more investment in technology, more work to improve skills from the classroom to the workplace and more work to bring together academia and business, they agreed.

“They can’t fail to implement it properly, that’s how we’ll still have an IT sector in 25 years…without that we could fizzle and fade. With that, we have the brightest future ever,” Hall said. 

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