Consultancy sacks 200 `Net illiterates'

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The Independent Online
TWO HUNDRED management consultants at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the multinational accountancy and consulting firm, are being asked to leave because of inadequate Internet skills.

Of the 3,000 staff in the consulting division, 6 per cent are affected. The firm said it was experiencing "a dramatic change in the skills profile" required in its employees, as electronic business and e-commerce became essential parts of modern industry.

Rival firms suggested the cuts were being made because PwC had suffered a slowdown in business as companies reined in spending for fear that the millennium bug would affect computer systems in the new year. Many companies have stopped computer development until January or later.

The staff who have been asked to leave by PwC were not offered retraining in Internet skills. A spokesman for the company said that "some have skills which are no longer in demand by our clients". He also said staff of all ages were involved in the decision.

John Moynihan, executive chairman of PA Consulting, which has 3,000 employees worldwide, said the scale of the decision suggested that Internet skills, or the lack of them, were not as crucial as the slowdown in business. "You don't ask 200 people to leave if you're seeing demand for Internet skills," he said. "You hire people. I think what's happened here is that they have had a slowdown in business and asked some people to leave. It's straightforward, nothing to do with e-business."

PwC's decision affects Britain only. The company said it plans to raise revenues from electronic business consulting by 20 per cent a year over the next five years. At present such business constitutes about 15 per cent of the firm's estimated pounds 2bn British revenue.