Select Committee on Innovation, Universities and Skills Written Evidence

Memorandum 58

Submission from e-skills UK


  e-skills UK is the Sector Skills Council for IT and Telecoms and has responsibility for ensuring that the UK has the technology-related skills pool to succeed in the global economy.

  We do this by focusing on the skills development needs of three related communities:

    —  The IT & Telecoms workforce: almost 1.2 million people in the IT workforce (600,000 people in the IT industry itself and 570,000 IT professionals working in other industries), and approximately 321,000 people in the Telecoms workforce. These are the professionals and others in supporting occupations who design, implement and run the technology systems on which all companies and the public sector depend.

    —  IT users: the estimated 21 million individuals who need to use IT for their day to day work.

    —  Business managers and leaders: the estimated 4 million people performing business management and leadership roles in the UK, who need to be able to understand and exploit the power of IT in driving competitiveness and productivity.

  We believe that IT skills are vital to the future competitiveness of the UK economy, as technology continues to pervade all sectors and is increasingly central to businesses. We also believe that the new ELQ policy will adversely affect our nation's ability to achieve the necessary levels of technology-related skills to succeed. This applies in particular to the IT and Telecoms workforce including IT and Telecoms professionals and which is the main area of focus of our submission.

  The IT & Telecoms professional workforce has grown continually since 1994, nearly doubling in size by 2006. 1,286,000 people are now employed in IT & telecoms professional roles in the UK. Recent research for e-skills UK conducted by Experian shows that employment in the IT and Telecoms professional workforce is forecast to continue to grow, at a rate of 1.6% per annum to reach 1,510,000 jobs by 2016. (By comparison, it is estimated that employment in the UK across all industries will increase by just 0.5 % per annum over the 10 year period).

  To support this growth and the replacement demand (for those leaving the sector), 141,000 new entrants per year are required into the IT & Telecoms professional workforce.

  Looking further into workforce dynamics, there s a significant shift in the sector into increasingly highly skilled roles. The following table shows the split of roles in today's workforce, and the forecast for 2016.

Table 3.2

GrowthEmployment 2006 Employment 2016Change
ICT Managers1.4%335,180 384,25049,070
IT Strategy & Planning2.6% 166,720216,42049,700
IT Software Professionals2.7% 389,670510,390120,720
IT Operations Technicians0.8% 138,910150,22011,310
IT User Support0.7%74,580 80,3105,730
Database Clerks-0.8% 76,79070,890-5,900
Computer Engineers-0.6% 36,51034,490-2,020
Telecom Engineers-0.6% 56,02052,790-3,230
Line repairers/Cable jointers-0.6% 11,18010,550-630
Total1.6%1,285,560 1,510,310224,750

  IT Software professionals and IT Strategy & planning are the highest growth occupations with the forecast growth of 2.7% and 2.6% respectively whilst the lower skills occupations such as database clerks are set to decline.

  Of the 141,000 new entrants to the IT and Telecoms professional workforce, only about 26,700 per annum of these are expected to come directly from education so that in consequence e-skills UK is engaging in a major development of our strategic planning to find new ways of encouraging more people already in the workforce to consider entering IT and Telecoms professions. This will include attracting many more women—as currently females make up just 18% of the IT and Telecoms professional workforce compared to 47% of the UK workforce as a whole.

  The ICT workforce is highly qualified: 55% have a level 4 or 5 qualification compared to 28% of the UK workforce as a whole. Yet the number of applicants to IT degree courses has been declining from a peak of 31,000 in 2001 to under 16,000 in 2006, similar to the level seen in 1996 and a decrease of 49% over five years. Mathematical and Computer Sciences is the only subject area (of 26) to have had four successive years of decreases in the number of applicants, largely due to the effect of IT degrees within this group, and applicants to IT degree courses now make up only 3.1% of all degree applicants, a fall from 5.7% in 2002.

  Analysis of applicant data also indicates a worsening gender balance with females comprising 15% of applicants to IT degrees in 2006 compared to 18% in 2001.

Applicants to Computer Science Courses - Subject Line1996-2006
1996-2001 Subject line G5-G8
2002-2006 Subject line G4-G7

Source: e-skills analysis of UCAS data


  The UK's future competitiveness increasingly depends on the ability to exploit IT and Communications technologies and consequently on the presence of a suitably skilled and qualified IT and Telecoms professional workforce. The significant and sustained growth in the IT and Telecoms workforce with a need for 141,000 new entrants per annum cannot be met by new entrants from education (forecast at 26,700 per annum) and must be met largely through reskilling members of the existing workforce and those re entering employment after a career break, particularly women, who are seriously underrepresented in the industry.

  Given the continuing high level of growth in the IT and Telecoms professional workforce and the decline in take up of IT related subjects in HE, there is a pressing need to address the issue of how to meet the growth in demand, if UK technology related productivity is not to be compromised.

  We are concerned that the ELQ policy affects mainly part time students whose ability to pay is very limited but who are a key part of the target market we need to attract into IT careers if future demand for IT and Telecoms professionals is to be met, eg women returners. We would also point out that, with increasing off shoring of traditional entry level jobs into IT and the growth in small company employment in the industry, the traditional professional development routes provided by large corporate companies may be less able to plug the education and training gap in future.

  We note the safety net approach to funding SIVs and the intention to phase this out over time which we would be extremely concerned about. If such qualifications are strategically important and vulnerable, we would suggest that they will continue to be so for the foreseeable future, particularly given the decline in take up that we have already highlighted.

  We also note that SIVs can be fully exempt from the ELQ funding cuts if the level of provision falls short of demand from employers but that IT and Computing subjects have yet to be awarded this status. We call for this situation to be reviewed urgently, as the current level of provision and supply of IT and Computing graduates is clearly insufficient to meet existing and future demand for IT and Telecoms professionals.

  We welcome the exemption of foundation degrees which we believe have an important role to play but are concerned to note that this exemption is also of a temporary nature.


  In the light of this we urge Government to review its ELQ policy to ensure that IT and Computing subjects are fully exempt from funding cuts and we also strongly recommend that these subjects are given full SIV status.

January 2008

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