Restrict IT offshoring and prevent immanent skills shortage

Yet another survey about an IT skills shortage hit my inbox today.

It is an article about how the UK will have 33,300 less IT workers than it needs by 2050.
These surveys always surprise me because I am in contact with quite a few unemployed IT workers. There is talk of there being about 40,000 unemployed IT professionals in the UK. Furthermore IT students coming out of university with IT qualifications are the largest group of unemployed graduates.

The survey blamed: a skills shortage, with people having the wrong sort of skills; an ageing workforce; and a restrictive migration policy, for the shortfall.

On the skills from it seems a shame that the government can’t introduce good schemes to help unemployed IT professionals retrain to fill the gaps. I mean these people have an aptitude for IT so it will only be a case of topping up.

Also the report said another problem is that work related emigration has risen 16% since 2007 while work related immigration has fallen 24%. But if you ask a lot of unemployed workers why they lost their jobs they will often say it was because their jobs were taken over as part of an offshoring contract. This means offshore workers come to the UK to do their job for less, but only for a short period before they are replaced by another, which stops it being recorded as work related immigration.

Also I have spoken to many UK IT professionals that have emigrated and they have done so because they cannot compete on price with offshore workers in the UK.

So workers lose their jobs as a result of the role being offshored. From this point the UK worker ceases to learn new skills on the job, hence adding to the skills shortage. Secondly a worker loses job to offshore worker and emigrates because it is impossible to compete on price, hence adding to the skills shortage.

The third point is that recent graduates cannot get their feet on the IT career ladder because entry level jobs are offshored. John Harris, chair of The Corporate IT Forum and chief architect and head of IT strategy at pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) for example told Computer weekly in a recent interview that years of outsourcing commodity IT skills has much to blame for the lack of grass-roots IT talent today. “It is important to feed the pipeline at the bottom end,” he says.

So why doesn’t the government do something about this. I have nothing against offshoring personally but there has to be a balance. Perhaps flying in low cost labour for short periods isn’t fair. It is up to the government to control this. What is cheap now could be costly in the future.

Give me your views in this poll.

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Do you think offshoring IT work will create a skills shortage in the UK?

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"On the skills from it seems a shame that the government can't introduce good schemes to help unemployed IT professionals retrain to fill the gaps. I mean these people have an aptitude for IT so it will only be a case of topping up."

You don't necessarily need the government to do this, as there are lots of ways to gain new skills e.g. via free online courses with Coursera or Udacity which are often of very high quality.

The problem is that many employers simply refuse to consider hiring experienced people with less than, say, 90% of the skills on their inflated job specs, especially once people have been out of work for a few months. Recruiters insist on very specific experience with specific versions of particular products, often refuse to consider people with relevant experience of other versions/packages or who have picked up new skills via training or working on their own, and will automatically reject anybody with a long spell out of work on their CV.

As there is a limit to how much you can learn about e.g. proprietary business intelligence tools for high-volume data warehouses working on your own at home (and there are no free versions of popular proprietary tools like Informatica), it's almost impossible to break into a high-demand area like enterprise BI/DWH, even if you have lots of relevant experience. And of course the goalposts of this week's fashionable skills keep shifting faster than you can pick up the relevant skills at home.

FWIW I've been trying to do just that for over a year, but despite 25 years of relevant IT experience on enterprise database applications, it looks like I will never get another job in the industry.

So much for the great IT skills shortage, eh?

Considering the fact that UK currently holds the crown for IT outsourcing, I think the answer would still be visible in the next few months. I have to agree with the statement you left at the end of the article – “there has to be a balance.” Besides, has it already proven or seen that offshore outsourcing will be the most probable cause of skills shortage? There should be more studies about it, I guess.

This article is great. Well, in fact there should be balance so that there will be no shortage of skills and that it will create wide avenues for fresh grad. This will give them opportunities to take advantage of their skills and hone it.