Sunday, 23 August 2009

Entry-level IT jobs as BT abandons graduate programme

(By Richard Holway 6.00pm Sunday 23rd Aug 09) As you are no doubt aware I am closely involved with the Make BrITain Great Again IT Manifesto. The Manifesto has a wide range of aims but the one that I am most passionate about is the creation of more entry-level jobs in the UK.

Statistics issued last week show the magnitude of the problem with a record 835,000 people aged between 18 and 24 in England not in work, education or training — a year ago the figure was 730,000.

More specifically in IT, the Government and others might want us to build a high-skill economy in the UK and, indeed, there are still shortages of certain IT skills; particularly jobs requiring 10+ years experience like programme managers. But programme managers do not arrive fully formed from the womb.

At the other end of the scale, it’s no good encouraging students at all ages to take up STEM subjects if there are no tech jobs for them when they leave school or college. I would never have had my career if I hadn’t got a trainee programmer job at the age of 18 in 1966.

Today the Sunday Times announced that BT calls a halt to graduate recruitment scheme from next year. BT received 4,800 applications last year for 130 jobs, up from 3,800 just two years ago. Interestingly Hanif Lalani, the head of BT’s Global Services arm, joined as a trainee in 1983 after attending Essex University.

Contrast this with TCS which a few weeks ago announced that it was to keep with its plans to take on 25000 graduates. I asked TCS how many would be taken on in the UK and was told none. TCS makes c$1b of its $6b global revenues in the UK. If it took on graduates pro rata to its local revenues, that would be over 4000 jobs for UK graduates. Unlikely, I know – but I’m sure you get the point that zero is equally unacceptable.

The implications of this are massive. Indeed, if we do not urgently take steps to create more entry-level IT jobs in the UK, the very future of our local IT industry will be in doubt.

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