asked the Minister for the Civil Service why Government-sponsored and approved training courses in computer technology are not acceptable qualifications for entry into data processing jobs in the Civil Service; and if he will make a statement.
No formal qualifications are needed for entry to the grade of data processor, which carries out the day-to-day operation of computers in the Civil Service. Promotion from this grade is possible via the clerical officer or senior data processor grades to the grade of Executive Officer, responsible for most of the programming and systems analysis work. An officer so promoted may, subject to passing a programming aptitude test and to the availability of vacancies, be assigned to these duties.To enter directly the grade of executive officer, however, a candidate must meet the minimum academic requirement of five GCE passes, including two at advanced level, or offer an equivalent or higher qualification. Successive reviews of automatic data processing in the Civil Service have concluded that computer programming and systems analysis should continue to be undertaken by executive grades in the administration group, and that such staff should be capable of performing a range of executive duties much broader than specialised computer work. Furthermore, the executive officer grade is the main source from which the more senior and intellectually demanding management posts of the future will be filled. It is important, therefore, that the direct entry standards applied to those who wish to work with computers should be the same as those applied to executive officers generally.