If Labour wins the next election, offshore IT services firms would be forced to create an apprenticeship in the UK for every worker hired, to increase job opportunities for young people.
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Thousands of migrant workers from IT companies are entering the UK on Intra Company Transfer (ICTs) visas, where staff of overseas companies with UK operations can enter the UK. Businesses are attracted to the lower cost of receiving services from offshore companies and this often involves staff from offshore locations coming to the UK for a few years at a time.
But UK IT professionals are losing work and IT graduates are struggling to find work. Research has shown that unemployment rates for graduates in computer science are higher than for any other subject. Many people in the industry blame the propensity for businesses to outsource and offshore work. They also fear that this will leave the UK short of the IT skills it needs in the future.
Blogging on the Huffington Post, shadow immigration minister Chris Bryant said the government will force businesses to create an apprenticeship for every migrant worker they employ. He said: “[The rules] will require every firm hiring a migrant worker from outside the EU to offer an apprenticeship in return. We will use procurement rules to ensure that large firms given government contracts offer apprenticeships. This will apply to what's called 'Tier 2' workers, and we will consult on whether it should also apply to some intra-company transfers.” He has since confirmed to Migration Watch, via Twitter, that it will include ICTs.
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Between 1997 and 2008, 300,000 ICTs came to the UK and half were IT workers. More than 166,000 ICTs in the UK during this period were from India with almost all IT workers.
Between 06 April 2011 and 28 February 2012, four IT categories featured in the top 10 occupations for ICTs: programmers and software development professionals; Information technology and telecommunications professionals; IT business analysts, architects and systems designers; and IT specialist managers. These four accounted for 8,024 ICTs out of a total 11,684 in the top ten occupations. The largest group by far with 4,342 was programmers and software development professionals.
Apprentice schemes are being set up by service providers to help potential IT professionals develop the right skills and break into the sector.
Many believe the same service providers that take over the IT roles are part of the solution through apprentice schemes. However, the scheme will not will not benefit those who have skills and experience but are now out of work.