EU expansion could create new job prospects for IT professionals

The expansion of the European Union to 25 member states last month could create new job opportunities for UK ITprofessionals.

The expansion of the European Union to 25 member states last month could create new job opportunities for UK ITprofessionals.

Much of the press coverage of the EU expansion has centred on predictions that the entry of countries such as Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic would encourage a new wave of jobseekers to try their luck in the UK. But there will also be opportunities for UK IT professionals who want to work in the EU.

Analysts, IT industry organisations and recruitment agencies agree that the expansion will cause a big shake-up in the pan-European IT industry.

Mike Rodd, external relations director at the British Computer Society, predicted that UK firms would want to take advantage of the higher skills and lower wages in the new EU countries.

Rodd said, "The former Soviet states have the advantage of a great education system with a thorough grounding in maths, science and languages, and I would expect a lot of UK-based companies to set up operations there to take advantage of the skills, not just the low wages."

According to Rodd, most of these companies would need to take with them the business skills to enable overseas operations to succeed. He said, "Although the core skills of the ex-Soviet countries are good, they are still affected by the centralised culture which organised them, where there was not much effort to empower middle managers."

Rodd predicted that UK staff who specialise in project management and systems architecture, for instance, would be in demand from companies wanting skills to oversee "near-shore" operations in the new EU countries.

Antony Miller, an analyst at Ovum, said, "I do not see a dramatic and sudden change to the jobs market as a result of the expansion, more a dramatic and gradual change over time.

"The IT market in the UK is still depressed, so there are not that many opportunities for foreign IT staff, but the entrepreneurial elements in the new member states will certainly want some of our skill sets to help launch their new operations."

Julian Morison, managing director of corporate accounts at recruitment agency Spring, also believed there was room for UK IT staff in the new states. "Harmonisation will be key to changes in the market, as part of a bigger trading area, cross-fertilisation of skills and a larger labour pool."

Morison said a vital element in this harmonisation would be the eventual removal of many work permit requirements. He said, "Currently, if a company like Nokia wants to form a team of 25 telecoms experts to build networks across different countries, each staff member usually has to apply for a work permit in most of the countries joining - this now will not be the case."

Morison agreed that project management would be a key skill for most of the countries to import, and he thought one area of expansion in the new countries would be niche software testing operations.

Andrea Di Maio, an analyst at Gartner, said Poland would be the key country in driving jobs expansion. He said, "Poland has recently doubled its number of graduates and spends 6.2% of its gross domestic product on education, which is higher than France, so it is going to be a key player."

However, the skills Poland needs to import, said Di Maio, are related to business processing, such as enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management. "These are new areas for most of the new member states," he said.

"The likes of Oracle and SAP have established strong presences in many of the new EU countries, and I would expect them to take staff with them from the established EU countries."

Rodd said overseas IT professionals were unlikely to find the UK attractive. "I do not see a lot of IT professionals from the new EU states moving here - why would they want to with such a low cost of living in their own countries?" he said.

The new EU states

Cyprus, Malta, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia.

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