Adam Thilthorpe, BCS Director for Professionalism in IT, discusses keeping your finger firmly on the pulse of IT and improving your skills in the industry.

The IT industry is bucking the trend in employment rates, with the profession set to grow at five times the national average and over 90,000 IT job vacancies available.

IT has become a strong career choice. However, for a profession that is constantly changing, there is the added pressure of keeping your finger firmly on the pulse and improving your skills is paramount.

The role of IT professionals is multifaceted; there are those who advance the knowledge and understanding of computer science, others who apply IT to the solution of engineering problems and an increasing number who exploit the technology to deliver business or service advantage.

What ever the role, IT professionals keeping up-to-date with all the latest changes in the industry can be a minefield. Regular training, career development courses, mentoring and professional certifications can all go towards ensuring that those in the sector remain up to date.

This has been a year of change for many organisations when cost saving has been vital in most cases, particularly in the public sector, where the spending review has had enormous impact. Many businesses and organisations have turned to IT to help develop solutions to these challenges.

During times of austerity, the IT team becomes a focus for the whole organisation. The public sector has been highly scrutinised over recent years. With smaller budgets and more demands being placed on governmental organisations, it is important that those working in IT lead the way in positive organisational change.

In order to do this, we at the Institute believes it is not just technical skills that the most discerning IT professional needs to develop and maintain, the so called ‘softer’ skills have become a prerequisite for any IT professional looking to progress.

‘Softer’ skills can include influencing, communication, critical thinking and team management. Towards the end of last year, we held a debate highlighting that IT professionals with hybrid skills - both technical and soft - will be the most sought after in the future.

Softer skills can be some of the most difficult of all to master but there is a real demand for them in the current environment. As well as having the technical knowledge, IT professionals need to be able to portray any technical requirements to others effectively. Those who manage it, will ensure they successfully progress throughout their career and can expect a bright future within the IT profession.

IT professionals are not the only public sector workers who need to continue developing technical skills; with 77 percent of the UK’s workforce using IT in their jobs, digital literacy has become a must for most public sector employees.

Today, IT skills are a requirement in almost every profession. From agriculture to healthcare, employers are looking for people who have a good level of IT knowledge and this can often be a distinguishing factor when recruiting or promotion.

If you’re looking to improve your IT skills, there are a number of different ways you can do this. Qualifications for non-IT professionals can be applied to almost any role within the modern workplace such as the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL).

Within the IT sector, professional certifications, complemented with career development courses and mentoring, also allows people to reach their full potential.

This article was first published on in March 2012.