Czech IT boom reveals shortage of trained employees

Information Technology is already huge business in the Czech Republic - and it looks set to get even bigger. According to a recent study, some 700 new IT companies are expected to appear in the country over the next four years, potentially increasing jobs in the field by almost a third. There is only one slight problem: it seems that there aren't enough qualified Czech employees to make use of them.

According to a recent study by the international agency IDC, investment in IT in the Czech Republic will reach a whopping 93 billion crowns (some 5 billion USD) this year. Jozef Gemela of IDC outlines the future of Czech IT business and its position among other European countries:

"There are more than 150,000 employees in the IT sector and we believe this number will increase by 40,000 in the next four years. The Czech IT industry is highly developed compared to other countries in Central and Eastern Europe. And measured by total IT spending the Czech Republic is the third largest IT market in the region after Russia and Poland. In terms of its share in the GDP the Czech IT market is the leader in the region."

However, if the Czech IT market really does develop at the expected speed, the country will soon have trouble filling the newly created jobs with qualified employees. Jozef Gemela:

"We didn't investigate the issue but I don't think that the Czech labour market is able to provide so many employees in the IT sector. There is a lack of qualified and experienced employees."

Because of the shortage of university graduates with IT specialization, some companies have decided to establish their own colleges. One such school is the Unicorn College, founded by an IT company of the same name. I asked its director Pavel Beranek about the reasons for the shortage of qualified employees:

"From my point of view there are two reasons. The first one is the attractiveness of IT. When you ask young people in grammar schools what they want to do, they say they don't want to study mathematics and other exact sciences. They think that IT is only about programming and they don't like it because programming is about mathematics. I think that's one part of the problem. That schools and IT companies have to explain to young people what IT is."

"The second part of the problem is the quality of university education in IT in the Czech Republic. For example when Unicorn wants to employ a new employee, such as developer, the new employee costs two hundred thousand crowns and two months of time, because we need to educate him."

Mr Beranek assured me, however, that his school had no problems with attracting new students. Perhaps because he never forgets to tell them that there is more money in the IT sector than in most other fields.