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IT geeks are chic - and in demand

Telegraph/ SMH | Feb. 25, 2013
In a world of digital natives, Andrew Marszal explains how to stand out when job-hunting.

Geeks ... in demand.

Photo: A.J. Rich

London: Many of us have accepted that those awkward teenagers who once rushed home from school to play computer games in dimly-lit bedrooms can now command six-figure salaries.

Today's younger generations now deem working in IT cool, a perception helped by a swathe of technology start-ups turning into multi-million dollar businesses, such as Google and Facebook.

But what the Facebook film The Social Network did not prepare us for is that even the most glamorous industries in the world are competing for their tech-savvy services. From Silicon Roundabout software houses to haute couture retailers, young people with IT skills are in high demand.

"There's definitely a skills shortage in the tech space," says James Hudson, head of recruitment for online clothing retailer Net-A-Porter. "Having those skills will definitely help here as we're an online fashion business, but even in traditional retail we're seeing brick-and-mortar retailers moving online."

He adds: "We're living in a world of digital natives. In whatever industry, people will be looking for exposure and affinity with digital. For instance, within five to 10 years you'll be expected to be able to do whatever you're currently doing remotely."

So the obvious question a job-hunter - or indeed a teenager planning ahead - might ask is how to go about acquiring these in-demand abilities.

Evidently a computer science degree is one route. But with only 20,000 admitted on to university courses in the subject last year, and more than 110,000 IT vacancies in the UK at the moment - a number expected to double by 2015 - this clearly cannot satisfy demand.

Besides, employers say an academic understanding of technology is less important than being au fait with the latest gadgets. Six in 10 students in the UK leave university unable to find a graduate job, partly because they lack experience.

Sarah Watson, Net-A-Porter's group mobile manager, says: "It's more about having an interest and being keen to learn. Especially with something like mobile, it's so new and changing so quickly that not a lot of people have the right experience anyway."


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