The Association of Technology Staffing Companies (ATSCo) has called on the Government to create training incentives for independent IT contractors, saying that such a move would go a long way to bridging the current IT skills gap.
According to the organisation, "keeping abreast" of new developments can set contractors back over £5,000 a year. These high costs combined with the fact that contractors lose out on work while attending training courses, are a "direct disincentive" for IT workers, notes ATSCo.
As a result the organisation has suggested that the Government make all training expenses tax deductible in next year's budget. This would include not only specific technical training but also, for example, management skills, languages, proposal writing courses and 'soft' skills courses, to ensure that IT workers are able to "market and exploit" their skills in the "most productive" manner.
In addition, ATSCo believes the measure might help encourage those contractors who have threatened to search overseas for employment (because of the income loss caused by IR35) to stay in the country, as easier access to ongoing training can offer them "enhanced employment and career development opportunities" in the UK.
"We recognise that the Government is already taking some measures to bridge the IT skills gap but we feel that this additional training incentive for the 100,000 contractors in the UK would make a substantial difference in the areas where the skills shortage is most critical," comments ATSCo chief executive, Ann Swain.
"The continual updating of skills is crucial to the success of the UK IT industry. We want the Government to recognise this through the tax system," she adds. "We would also like to see a level playing field. Independent contractors will be at a significant disadvantage compared with those in employment, whose employers pay for training and get the cost deductible against their own corporation tax."