A high-tech economy needs to retain high-tech skills

Public sector IT professionals are no doubt gearing up for difficult times ahead. Already, government CIOs are warning of the risk of losing talented staff as the impending budget cuts to be imposed by the new administration start to bite.

We are seeing evidence that public sector outsourcing is growing, and experts predict the trend will only increase because it is perceived as a way to reduce spending.

Plans by the Tory/LibDem coalition to mandate Treasury approval for any roles with a salary greater than that of the prime minister also mean that senior IT leadership jobs will be intensely scrutinised. Government CIOs often appear in media lists of the best-paid public servants.

A tentative recovery in the private sector will offer an escape route for some, but corporate employers will remain cautious about recruiting for a while yet.

While IT will be a growth area for employment in the long term, there is a risk of a short-term skills crisis that could have lasting repercussions.

Companies which make use of offshore outsourcing are already reacting to the news that non-EU immigration will be capped. Their attitude is that if they cannot bring in low-cost overseas resources from countries such as India, they will simply move their development centres out of the EU.

In a global and highly mobile workforce such as IT, it is not as simple as saying you must employ people who are sourced locally.

The government has many decisions to make in its early days, but at some point it will have to address the issue of what sort of IT workforce it wants the UK to maintain.

If we want to be a high-tech economy, we need those high-tech skills. If the public sector is about to offload suitable skilled professionals, potentially in their thousands, we need a plan for retaining, employing  and developing their careers, or we risk alienating a generation of IT talent we  cannot afford to lose.

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