The bad news – and this won’t be news to most – is that there are fewer and fewer IT-qualified people below you on the career ladder, waiting to be the next chief architect, the next data centre manager, the next head of IT.
As our cover story highlights, the number of people with maths and science qualifications or computer science degrees, the number being trained in IT within post-graduate schemes – in other words the potential candidates with qualifications traditionally considered appropriate for a career in IT – is withering away.
Offshore outsourcing is playing its part, not just in pulling away the bottom rungs of the ladder by taking programming and service jobs to India and elsewhere, but in instilling a sense that IT is a career where the value of the job (even if it exists locally) will fall over time.
But that is not the only factor. The dot-com era inflated the kudos of a career in IT only to bring it crashing back to earth when the bubble burst.
The dwindling numbers of women in IT has also had an impact, making it an increasingly difficult path to follow for half the labour pool. And of course there is the myopia about what it means to work in IT, perpetuated by mainstream media.
Taken together, those may account for the 100,000 UK IT jobs currently vacant.
But are we looking the problem using the rear-view mirror? Do we really need technical skills to fill the IT management roles of the future? People like Paul Smith from jobs firm Harvey Nash certainly doesn’t think so: “We won’t need to understand technology in the future. Technology is nowhere near as important as it was five years ago, and it will continue to get less important.” Others observe that young people have a much sounder grasp of the disruptive potential of technology in businesses.
So maybe we are witnessing a natural re-skilling here – the emergence of a set of people who will fill the shoes of today’s IT management not because of their technical prowess but because of their perspective that business and IT are inseparable, the line between the two artificial.
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