Monday, 27 December 2010

What does the wage data tell us about IT skills?

One of the underlying narratives of the last decade is the repositioning of the UK IT industry towards high-value IT work and off-shoring more routine, low-value work.

Advertised IT salaries as of 29 March 2010 (

As you can see wages for the mid-to-high end are in fact increasing (indicating increased demand). The low end is static and with a drop in advertised vacancies and increased moves to off-shoring indicates reduced demand. This is backed up by more detailed analysis in recent e-skills UK reports.

I put this up at careers events to impress on the audience (1) a realistic idea of the salary position and (2) that the low-end has been squeezed to the extent that mediocre simply doesn't cut it anymore. The story of an uncle who blagged a well-paid job in IT in the 80's-90's is moving into the realm of myth and legend.

The problem is the outside world thinks that the IT job market is help-desk and getting kit to work: not what IT professionals actually do. The irony is that the TV programme 'The IT crowd' should have been called 'The IT crowd who had their roles off-shored 10 years ago'.  

Even if some of the lower wage end is 'graduate trainee', there seems to be increasingly fewer positions for sub-degree entry (especially in a time of higher than usual graduate unemployment). So are we offering large numbers of IT 'vocational' qualifications in schools when there isn't a job market to absorb them? That is assuming that what is taught is relevant to even an IT, which isn't the case in reality (it teaches use of IT). Has the IT job market has effectively become a graduate entry market? Do we need to recognise this in policy, e.g. focus on intellectual development such as 'computational thinking', consider work-related focus largely as a motivator, assume that HE is the majority destination for post 16 learners in qualification design?

Or is the data hiding a different dynamic in SMEs, so we are are seeing the more visible behaviour of the corporate employers? Their recruitment behaviour for graduates differs in my experience.

The movement to a graduate discipline may be complete unless the next few years sees companies recruiting talented BTEC/A-level students from college directly and developing their IT trainees themselves (which used to be more common 30-40 years ago, say in accountancy and even in chemistry). Watch and see...

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