A series of free half-days of introductory training on all Microsoft programmes - up to expert levels - is being offered to small and medium sized firms (SMEs) in the West Midlands by Birmingham's Technology Innovation Centre (TIC) in a move designed to combat skill shortages.
In its recently-published national report, e-Skills - the UK Skills Council for IT - identified a crisis emerging in Information Technology.
The survey of over 3,200 employers examined IT skill needs, warning that the UK faces a workforce skills gap which will damage UK's global competitiveness within ten years if not addressed.
As an established leader in the IT field, TIC is among the UK's prime Microsoft academies. It also operates global technology-giant CISCO's training academy for Europe, Middle East and Africa.
The centre claims it understands the IT skill-needs of SMEs and can train staff from intermediate grade of Microsoft Office Specialist through to an advanced level.
A free half-day introduction to its extended series of training courses in 2005 is being offered by TIC starting tomorrow.
Around four out of five of UK's 27 million-strong workforce need IT skills to do their job. However, 40 per cent of those have never received IT training.
Such skills are cited in the e-Skills report as a 'key source of competitiveness' for all sectors in terms of opening new markets, increasing performance and driving productivity.
The survey also found 76 per cent of companies had needed to delay the launch of new products or services.
It also reported companies were finding IT skills shortages continue to threaten both revenue and customer services. TIC offers life-long knowledge development for individuals and affordable IT training to businesses. It has already given hundreds of Midlands SMEs training and consultancy support to adopt new technologies and up-skill workforces.
TIC's extensive 2005 course schedule covers Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Access and Project programmes.
Courses prepare participants for the internationally recognised Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) qualification.
To help Midlands SMEs with self-taught, untrained, or partially trained, staff, the TIC is offering a series of free Microsoft course- preview half- days. The training courses at all levels will be previewed and companies helped to find the courses best suited to their needs.
Karen Price, e-Skills' UK chief executive, said: "Our survey clearly demonstrates that the UK will not be competitive in the global economy in ten years time if we continue with the level and type of skills being relied on by business today."
TIC's manager of software and e- Business, George Squires, added: " TIC's involvement with industry, and its knowledge of IT, puts the team in a unique position to advise and recommend training solutions to meet a company's current and future IT-skill needs. "There'll be no pressure on preview day visitors - just expert guidance."
TIC's Microsoft preview days feature a choice of morning and afternoon threehourssessions. Further dates are planned throughout spring this year.
* SMEs interested in attending the first, or subsequent, half-day sessions should contact course enquiries on 0121 331 6400 or e- mail: firstname.lastname@example.org TIC's website can be found at www.tic.ac.uk