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?