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UK more confident about ICT skills than most EU countries

But is the confidence misguided?

Workers in the UK are more confident that they have the ICT skills that will allow them to change jobs within a year than many of their European counterparts, new EU data has shown.

The latest scoreboard from the European Commission (EC) rates member states on how they performed in 2011 on their Digital Agenda initiatives, which were laid out in 2010 in an attempt to boost investment in, and use of, digital technologies.

For one of the indicators, individuals were asked if they judged their current computer or internet skills to be sufficient for the labour market if they were to change jobs within a year.

In the UK, just 10.7 percent thought that their ICT skills were insufficient, lower than the EU average of 20.6 percent.

In comparison, Italy was most pessimistic, with 34.4 percent of workers believing that their existing ICT skills were lacking for the labour market. Bulgaria, at just two percent, was most confident about its ability.

Other measures around skills included looking at what percentage of the population had written a computer program, or gained ICT skills through formal educational institutions.

For example, 13.2 percent of the UK population had written a computer program using a specialised programming language, compared to the EU average of 10 percent. The UK was sixth behind countries including Finland, Sweden and Norway in this category.

Some 14.1 percent of the UK population have created a web page, althoughthis is higher than the EU average of 10.6 percent, the UK fell to eighth place. Iceland was in pole position with 32.2 percent.

Although 86.7 percent of UK individuals aged 16 to 24 had obtained ICT skills through formal education, compared to the EU average of 71.8 percent, the UK ranked lower still, in ninth place.

However, it ranked higher - fourth - when looking at the number of people aged between 25 and 54 who had obtained ICT skills through formal education (37.9 percent compared to 28.6 percent average).

Despite these above-average statistics, the IT industry believes that the UK ICT skills are not up to the level required.

"The data does not mean that people have the sufficient skills that the labour market requires at the moment. Just because you've created a web page does not mean you have the skills level to create a web page at the corporate level," said Carrie Hartnell, associate director at Intellect.

"Given the issue around data privacy and cybersecurity, to be the hub of technology in Europe, we need to prove it is about high-level tech computer programming."

David Clarke, CEO of BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, warned: "If people are looking at the established IT skills today versus the new requirements for today and tomorrow, there is going to be a large, and growing, discrepancy.

"The big question is whether the coming skills gap can be filled quickly enough by new people coming through and new skills training being put in place."

Meanwhile, Nick Wilson, VP and managing director of HP UK and Ireland, believes that too many technology degrees are not providing the right combination of industry-focused skills and academic background that appeal to employers.

"Young people have brought many benefits into the workplace in recent years, including fresh ideas and a perspective gained from growing up with technology. However, as the business drills down further into the skills requirements of the roles on offer, we too often find areas where there is room for improvement," he said.

"Businesses need interns and graduates with technical skills, such as C, C++ and software skills, as well as business skills including consulting, project, people and sales management."


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