Is the UK IT profession crumbling at our feet like the car industry did?

On Monday I blogged about a survey that a reader had created. The aim of the survey is to get to the bottom of the skills shortage debate in the UK.

There is a lot of disagreement on this.

There have been 41 respondents in a couple of days and we are beginning to paint a picture of the IT sector in the eyes of IT professionals.

The more respondents we get the better the more authoritative the survey will be. So we are calling on IT workers in the UK to fill in this quick questionnaire. It is truly independent, even of Computer Weekly, and was created by an IT professional

Just for a taster over a quarter of respondents don’t expect to be in IT in five years’ time.

But some of the comments left about the state of the industry for UK IT workers paint a Edvard Munch like painting. So if you want to scream about it, once again the survey here is your chance.

So here are a selection of the comments left in the questionnaire.

1 – “[The IT profession] is no longer a nice field to work in. I have even been forced to work for an Indian company at a poor salary, poorer working conditions and then let go the minute they no longer needed me. Yet the overseas workers carry on with a job once I’m gone.

Wonder why I just didn’t become a truck driver – Cameron is not allowing those services to be imported despite no shortage.”

2 – ” The industry is going to disappear in some areas, e.g. wider adoption of cloud will remove whole tiers of the industry.!

3 – “I am a Java developer and have just been made redundant after spending 10 years with an Investment Bank because my role has moved offshore. Several colleagues were also made redundant for the same reason. There is no IT skills shortage in the UK, however many employers do not want to pay for these skills, they prefer instead to get cheaper less skilled resources from overseas.”

4 – “In my experience, we have seen people leaving even during the recession. Recruiting good quality staff to replace them has been exceptionally difficult, with few good CVs and the more promising candidates receiving better offers from elsewhere. All of this seems to be evidence for a skills shortage.”
Either that, or no-one wants to work for this company.”

5 – “In my opinion, the so-called skills shortage has its roots in 2 areas.

1) Lack of good graduates with appropriate skills. UK Universities haven’t been turning out graduates with the skills UK industry requires for years.

2) Lack of investment by UK companies in their own IT staff. I’ve worked in the industry as a technical consultant for over 20 years and I despair of the lack of good technical knowledge in many of my younger (under 30) colleagues.”

6 – “The recession and Indian ICTs have hit me badly.  As a freelance, I have been out of a contract for 18 of the past 24 months.  I have been told on several occasions that an Indian has undercut me at a rate I cannot afford to meet.

Before 2009, I was never out of work.”

7 – “I see no shortage of computing skills among the UK workforce. Rather, skilled British workers are being made redundant so that their tasks can be inadequately performed by unskilled workers (usually based overseas) at a fraction of both the cost and quality. This almost invariably results in a net increase in total cost for the business procuring the work.”

8 – “15 years experience, zero training courses with some on the job stuff.

If employers trained or even considered similar skills there wouldn’t be a shortage because I would get some work for instance.”

9 – “I would like to have a roof over my head, (albeit rented as had to sell my house last year) and eat.”

10 – “As a direct result of the recession, I had to take a poorly paid job outside IT. I am now finding it incredibly difficult to re-enter my preferred profession.”

11 – “In my area (Finance IT) there is no shortage of capable UK residents or EU workers to do the job but for the past 10+ years, companies have been replacing UK workers with offshore or onshored Indian workers who lack the same skills and experience but, crucially, are 20-50% cheaper in gross terms.

The fact that they usually take far longer to do the same work and do it to a much poorer standard (in my personal experience and the anecdotal experience of others) – hence costing the company more in the long run than their UK equivalents – is ignored. The immediate bottom-line cost is all that matters in the short term view of modern corporates.”

12 – “Personally, I think its becoming a self fulfilling prophecy. In-house promotion and training is virtually non existent; people move up the career ladder by moving from one employer to another. Hence, the employers accuse the employees/candidates of being disloyal and refuse to pay to train them. The employees then see their loyalty as being only one way with nothing coming back, so when someone offers them something better, they leave.

The race now, for the bottom line, to do as much as possible for as little, importing staff under ICT’s plus Tier1’s and a shameful open doors immigration policy is going to leave the UK’s IT Industry going the same way as it’s motor industry did thirty years ago. I hope to stay in it as long as I can, but the future, I’m finding, looks pretty dark.”

13 – “The strategy of the IT board at the bank I work at is to off-shore much of the IT work leaving few opportunities on-shore. No new trainees in IT are being taken on. The net result of this is that only managers will be left on-shore and they will become technically illiterate over a period of time. This to my mind leaves the company exposed since the IT (and security I might add) is in the hands of a third party. Over time they will have the company over a barrel and be able to charge any price they wish.”

16 – “Being just over 50 I expect to be squeezed out of my role in the next 12-24 months, after which I don’t think I will be able to find any viable IT work so will either have to retire or change fields.

The shortage is only a shortage of people willing and able to undertake the work at (close to) NMW levels. Indigenous workers are unable to take these jobs on because of their financial commitments. Companies offshoring jobs either don’t realise that they are also diminishing their customer base, or they don’t care because it is a short-term move to improve the bottom line and gain brownie points, and the long-term implications are an SEP (Someone Else’s Problem).”

18 – “The UK is drowning in IT staff brought in on ICTs.  I’ve seen entire development departments with not an English accent to be heard.

If a business only wants to pay £3.50 per hour, they are quite unlikely to find many English applicants. Indian IT firms hire only Indians.

I have also seen British staff forced to train ICT staff before they are made redundant – this is of course illegal.”

18 – “Regarding offshoring – in our industry, IT outsourcing is explained as being required to stay competitive in the market.  That may be so, I can’t say for sure.

Regarding the quality of offshore staff – clearly if the main driver for offshoring is lower costs then it’s no surprise that most are graduates with little prior industry experience. In my experience, they pick up technical skills pretty quickly but are much slower in learning how to be an ‘IT professional’. There is not the critical mass of more experienced colleagues showing them how to do the job.

Also, again in my experience, offshored staff are largely monitored and managed by metrics, which broadly you could argue is fair enough. However the concepts of duty of care, or taking ownership & responsibility for the systems you look after, are often lacking. I guess you get what you pay for.

I think there will still be a demand for good staff in the UK, but the more ‘run of the mill’ employees, I’m not sure. If businesses can get them cheaper elsewhere, that’s surely where they’ll go.”