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IT missing from immigration “skills shortlist”

UK business has urged government to be flexible in setting rules that will make it difficult to employ IT staff from outside the European Union.

This comes after IT workers were left off of a recommended skills shortlist submitted to government by independent economic advisors this week.

The list was drawn up by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) tasked with providing advice to government on labour shortages in the UK.

If accepted next month, the list will form the basis for the new point-based migration system to be introduced in November.

The point-based system is aimed at encouraging firms to employ people from the UK before they offer the job to anyone from overseas.

This means foreign workers with skills on the shortlist such as civil engineers will find it easier to qualify to work in the UK than IT workers.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said it supports the government aims to develop local skills, but said it is important that flexibility is retained so firms can adapt to changes.

Katja Hall, CBI director of employment, said that although migrant workers have brought great benefits to the UK economy, they are not a long-term solution to the UK's skills problems.

"We have to upskill our home-grown workforce if we are to stay globally competitive," she said.

The Federation of Small Businesses said it respects the MAC's judgement, but that it would like an evaluation of this on a monthly basis as the demand for IT skills can change very rapidly.

Ollie Ross, head of research for The Corporate IT Forum, said, "We cannot yet be sure what impact this restriction on the IT skills market will have on British businesses. However, if the decision does appear to be affecting the competitiveness of UK businesses - especially at a time of a global economic slowdown - then we would urge the government to reconsider."

Liam Byrne, border and immigration minister said, "Crucially, the points system means only the migrants with the skills Britain needs can come - and no more. Unlike made-up quotas, this stops government cutting business off from the skills it needs when they need them."

The recommended skills list defines which positions cannot be filled by resident workers and reduces the number of jobs open to migrants from one million to 700,000.


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