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British business is already suffering material harm because of a lack of skilled IT staff, a Gartner survey has found.

The poll of 3,200 companies showed that 76 per cent of businesses which had problems finding staff have been forced to delay launching new products and services because of problems filling IT vacancies. One third of businesses are suffering such shortages. Part of the problem comes from the continued lack of women in the IT workforce - only 20 per cent of IT workers are female.

Researchers believe the problem is bad now and will get worse in the future. They predict the IT workforce will grow at between 1.5 per cent and 2.2 per cent per annum for the next ten years. Apart from new jobs, recruits are also needed to fill posts left empty by people leaving the industry, taking a career break or retiring. This replacement demand is expected to be nine per cent for IT professionals and 14 per cent for the IT industry. This means the UK needs to find between 156,000 and 179,000 entrants a year.

Offshoring will have an impact in changing the kind of skills people need. Although purely technical jobs may be lost, most offshoring contracts do create other jobs or opportunites in areas like Business Process Outsourcing. Managing outsourced suppliers and innovating will become more important parts of remaining IT staff job function.

The UK has 580,000 people working in the IT industry and another 590,000 people working as IT professionals in other industries.

The survey also found that 20m out of a total workforce of 27m use technology as part of their jobs but 40 per cent of them have never had any training. ®

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