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Friday, September 17, 1999 Published at 10:33 GMT 11:33 UK

Business: The Economy

Internet engineers crisis warning

These computer skills trainees will be able to earn high salaries

Europe will face an Internet engineering skills crisis next century unless more young people undergo training, a new report warns.

The BBC's Richard Griffiths: "Tomorrow's specialists can expect high salaries"
The "plumbers for the 21st century" will be in great demand - installing and maintaining the pipes and equipment which allow information to flow over the Internet, says the research.

The report says about 600,000 young people Europe-wide will need to train as Internet engineers over the next three years to keep pace with the explosive growth of the Net.

Only days ago, prime minister Tony Blair warned that UK business is in danger of falling behind other nations because not enough use is made of the Internet.

[ image: More people will have to train if the need is to be met]
More people will have to train if the need is to be met
International Data Corporation, which carried out the research, said: "It is predicted that by 2002, we will see a shortfall of almost 600,000 individuals possessing the fundamental skills to design, build and manage the networks that are the bedrock of almost every business and government worldwide."

It says the situation will only worsen unless action is taken.

Germany is predicted to suffer the most, with a 31.7% shortfall by 2002, and the UK second, with at 13.8% shortage. France, Italy and the Netherlands follow.

Mike Couzens, of Internet networking company Cisco Systems, which commissioned the research, said: "Business has been discussing the IT skills shortage for some time.

"But it's not until now with the explosive use of the Intenet in business and governments in Europe that we are facing a new crisis in terms of a networking skills shortage."

[ image: Mike Couzens: Worried about the shortfall in experts]
Mike Couzens: Worried about the shortfall in experts
Small-to-medium businesses are most likely to be affected by the skills shortage, the report says.

But for people willing to learn, the shortage is offering unprecedented career opportunities.

Already the high demand for IT experts has led to high salaries and rapid turnover of these employees - and if this continues, it will place a greater burden on European businesses, says IDC.

Young people already on Internet skills training courses say the money is one of the biggest incentives.

The new report will help boost their confidence about their job prospects.

Cisco has introduced a network training qualification. Mike Couzens of Cisco said: "We're extremely worried about the shortfall in the industry."

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