Britain Facing IT Worker Shortage

U.K. businesses need to hire 110,000 technology and telecom employees this year, and a half-million over the next five years.

The demand for IT and telecom workers in the United Kingdom is expected to rise by more than a half million over the next five years, as the industry as a whole is expanding much faster than the national average, a study shows.

This year 110,000 new employees are needed to keep with demand in the IT and telecom industry, a study released Tuesday by e-Skill UK shows. A total of 1.5 million people are currently employed in IT, or one in 20 workers in the U.K.

Of the total number of workers, 40% are employed in the IT and telecom industry, while the remainder is spread out across every other sector of the economy. IT and telecom is forecast to grow by 2.19% each year over the next decade, or five times faster than the U.K. average for all industries.

The report points to some worrying trends. The number of IT professionals under 30 has declined from 33% in 2001 to only 19% last year, while the proportion of workers older than 50 has almost doubled to 17%. The industry's preference for experienced workers over young adults could add to the worker shortage in the future, as the older workers retire. Women remained a minority in the IT profession. The study found that women made up just 18% of the workforce.

The report illustrated the importance of technology in driving growth and innovation across the U.K. economy. The IT and telecom industry alone contributes $129.5 billion a year, and the report finds that exploiting the full potential of technology could contribute an additional $79.9 billion over the next five to seven years.

In the United States, the IT job market is sputtering. The U.S. job market showed a 3% drop in the number of IT professionals employed, to 3.9 million at the end of the third quarter of 2010, according to the quarterly report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The decline was not all bad news. The number of employed showed that the IT industry has managed to hold onto the nearly 300,000 IT jobs lost in the recession, according to the report. IT unemployment stood at 4.5%, compared with 4.9% for professional and managerial workers overall.

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