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IT and the skills shortage

IT workers value career opportunities over money and are prepared to pay out of their own pockets to get them, writes Matt Middleton-Leal, pictured, GM, EMEA, at Netwrix Corporation.

A lot has been written about the so-called IT skills shortage. In Britain much of the debate has focused on the lack of a coherent government strategy for working with education and industry to address the situation. Netwrix surveyed a sample of more than 100 IT professionals to find out what the situation is like from the point of view of IT workers themselves and what employers are doing to help them enhance their skills.

In the UK the IT industry is expected to be the biggest recruiter of talent by the end of the decade. The rising demand is offset by two important trends. Not enough skilled workers are entering the workplace (the UK has around 77,000 Computer Science undergraduates). This is well below what is needed. It is estimated that an additional 766,000 digital jobs are to be created by 2020. Yet computer science graduates have the highest unemployment rate of all degree types.

Being a System Administrator (SysAdmin) is a role that is often tough and underappreciated. Business leaders rarely give their hard working IT engineers a second thought until something goes wrong. And when it does they are expected to carry the can. Perhaps it is because of this somewhat lowly reputation or perhaps it is because computer science education is not able to keep pace with developing technologies but a significant proportion of IT pros do not complete a formal degree before entering the workplace. Indeed, most believe that hands on experience counts for more.

In the survey, 56pc of respondents say on the job experience is what matters most. Two-fifths (42pc) did not even graduate. Instead professional qualifications are the preferred way for IT staff to advance their career. A sizeable majority (73pc) undertake qualifications to improve their skills compared with a much smaller proportion (30pc) that complete a certificate to increase their salary.

However they enter the industry – whether based on skills or via a degree course – they are unlikely to be satisfied with their salary. The majority of SysAdmins feel either their whole team is underpaid or they personally are underpaid. Even so only a quarter of them were ready to abandon their companies for a bigger pay cheque. IT workers are generally loyal to their employers and would prefer to broaden their range of skills in order to qualify for a higher salary.

In fact most IT pros we spoke to are not in it for the money. More than half (51pc) feel undervalued by their employers. A third of them are not interested looking for another job, even if they feel underpaid. In general they are happy with their employers and their duties. Those looking for a new position were more likely to opt for better opportunities (35pc) than a higher salary (27pc).

When it comes to recruitment employers could do more to help themselves. The job interview process is far from satisfactory. Respondents feel that employers’ desired skillsets often bear no relation to the position on offer. Some 39pc of respondents said interviewers questions bore no relation to what they faced on the job. Employers also turned out to be reluctant to pay for courses that would advance their workers skills. Just under half of respondents (49pc) reported their employers would not fund IT certifications and were expected to pay course fees themselves. Age is a determining factor with companies more willing to pay for courses for employees up to their 40s than the over 50s (71pc of over 50s said their company would not pay).

This approach is short-sighted and maybe even detrimental, especially in an age when people are expected to work longer before they can retire. Older people are well-versed in how the business works. Paying to prevent them from falling behind with developing technologies is surely a win-win for all involved.

In summary, IT workers feel that hands-on work experience is more important than academic achievements in their industry. The role is often stressful and taken for granted yet most are content in their position. It takes a lot for them to jump ship but when they do it is because they are looking for better opportunities rather then increased salary. Often they face funding qualifications out of their own pocket to get them. Employers need to do more to pay for training courses especially for longer-serving employees whose valuable knowledge of the business is best preserved by keeping them up to date with developing technologies.

About Netwrix

Netwrix provides a visibility platform for data security and risk mitigation that allows users to see and control what’s going on in on premise, cloud and hybrid IT environments. Visit www.Netwrix.com.


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