Campaign to target IT gender balance

EAST Anglia-based IT skills partnership IDEA Ltd is launching a campaign to encourage more women to seek careers in the information technology sector.

Although women make up nearly half (45%) of the total UK labour force, they only account at present for around one in six (17%) of those working in IT.

Research indicates that girls consistently outperform boys in IT-related subjects at school, but comparatively few then opt for IT courses at higher education or pursue technology careers.

The IDEA campaign is to be officially launched next month, to coincide with National Apprenticeship Week, which runs from February 7 to 11.

It will contribute to the 100 in 100 campaign which is looking to identify and recruit 100 apprentices in organisations across Suffolk in 100 days.

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A launch event will be held at Suffolk New College in Ipswich, attended by current IDEA apprentices and members of the business community.

Peter Funnell, IDEA chief executive, said: “Our campaign aims to increase the number of women starting on a professional IT career by encouraging and supporting individuals to undertake an apprenticeship in IT.

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“IT is a sector in which women are significantly under-represented and our campaign seeks to address this as a social issue and as a positive means to overcome known skills shortages in the future.”

The campaign is part of a wider initiative to promote diversity in apprenticeships supported by the National Apprenticeship Service and will contribute to the creation of an additional 150 apprenticeship placements across the East of England.

Renee Richardson, already an IDEA apprentice, said: “The IDEA apprenticeship helped me overcome my concerns about working in IT: it’s definitely the career for me.

“Everyday brings new challenges and I’ve not stopped learning. I can’t wait to see my career develop as a result of placement at Birketts Solicitors on the IDEA apprenticeship scheme.”

IDEA believes that bringing inspirational role models into the classroom is the best way to help girls understand the excitement of working with technology.

However, it also aims to raise awareness among employers, with research suggesting that some of the barriers to women embarking on IT careers involve employer pre-conceptions.

IDEA is a joint venture between BT, Cisco, University College London, University of East Anglia, University of Essex, University Campus Suffolk and Suffolk New College.

It aims to build on the strengths of the individual partners to create innovative solutions to skills and training requirements.

According to industry estimates, the IT professional sector is likely to require more than 500,000 new entrants over the next five years.

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