‘UK needs a seat at IT’s top table to stay competitive’

AROUND a quarter of Britain’s IT graduates from 2009 have still to find work, a major conference was told yesterday.

Delegates attending the Techmesh IT and telecoms expo at the Royal Armouries in Leeds were told that the IT sector is about to undergo radical change.

However, there were concerns that Britain could be left behind unless stronger links are developed between business and IT professionals.

Sign up to our Business newsletter

Sign up to our Business newsletter

The speakers included Ajaz Ahmed, the co-founder of internet service provider Freeserve, who said the UK must have a seat at the IT “top table” in order to stay competitive.

Techmesh is a not-for-profit network funded by the public and private sectors which aims to develop the telecoms and IT sectors in Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire.

The Royal Armouries event, which attracted 400 people and 40 exhibitors, included a Techpanel, which featured seven IT industry experts who were quizzed about challenges facing the industry.

The audience was told that around 70 per cent of IT projects fail.

Andrew Choi, the executive director of the Mid Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, said there were often skills shortages in every sector.

He added: “Sometimes projects fail because we don’t have the right people in the right places.”

Bryan Kinsella, an experienced board level chief information officer, said there were long-standing problems finding people who could make a connection between business and IT.

He said there was a big need for a “bridge person” but they were often few and far between.

“We’re not great at delivering large scale programmes,’’ he said. “It’s a big challenge.”

Mr Kinsella noted that he’d seen a big shift towards “shapers and creators” in the IT sector, and he urged technology firms to invest in developing their skills base.

Alan Ward, the head of the corporate ICT research practice at BT innovate and design, highlighted the fact that the top 10 IT jobs in the US didn’t exist a decade ago.

James Akrigg, the head of technology for partners at Microsoft, said the IT sector would undergo radical changes in the next 12 to 18 months.

He added: “We need people with new experiences and new perspectives. We need to revitalise the IT sector.”

The audience was told that 23 per cent of IT graduates from 2009 were unemployed, which underlined the need to strengthen links between education and the technology sector.

Techmesh, which has 160 members, was launched in 2010 by Connect Yorkshire, the organisation that supports fast-growing businesses.

Last month, Techmesh merged with the Leeds, York and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce.