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The Chancellor is under pressure from IT users and suppliers to take radical steps to ease the UK’s skills shortage in next week’s Budget.
The call follows growing concerns that a high-profile government action plan to encourage more workers into IT has made little progress after five months.
Although the government is expected to use the Budget to ease immigration restrictions for oversees IT workers, it is coming under pressure for a more radical rethink.
“Patricia Hewitt is saying all the right things, including bringing people from the US to work here, but the Treasury and the Inland Revenue are working to make that more difficult. There has to be a change of thinking,” said John Higgins, director general of the Computing Software Services Association.
His comments come five months after a government working group, led by EDS director Alan Stevens, published a 16-point plan to beat the skills crisis.
Progress on the plan has been delayed by internal arguments over an umbrella body to bring together the UK’s IT training organisations. Delays have led to calls for the Government to use the Budget to give the scheme new impetus.
“The Stevens Committee reported in November. We are in March. There needs to be more oomph. The recommendations have got bogged down in bureaucratic rearrangements,” said John O’Sullivan, director of the Alliance for Information Systems Skills.
O’Sullivan is calling on the Government to use the Budget to fund a major expansion in the number of IT graduates from universities.
The CSSA urged the Chancellor to make sure all arms of government were co-operating to make the UK a centre of e-commerce. Higgins said measures introduced by the Treasury for companies to pay national insurance on share options for staff, were stifling e-commerce.