Government must give businesses headcount flexibility, says Microsoft MD

Government legislation needs to allow businesses to "hire and fire" to stimulate the jobs market, according to Microsoft's UK managing director.

Government legislation needs to allow businesses to "hire and fire" to stimulate the jobs market, according to Microsoft's UK managing director.

Gordon Frazer, UK managing director at Microsoft, believes the government should make it easier for small businesses to hire and fire to encourage more organisations to recruit to counter UK unemployment.

In an interview with Computer Weekly, Frazer says the government has driven higher apprenticeships to provide alternative qualifications. However, some regulations could be streamlined to eliminate a lot of red tape and bureaucracy and improve job opportunities.

"It is difficult for businesses to hire if they cannot reduce headcount when the economic situation changes. It is difficult to be elastic in terms of resources," he says.

"The government is looking at this under the broad bucket of labour regulations. No one plans to start firing people when they hire, but businesses need appropriate flexibility," he adds.

Frazer says unemployment became a particular problem in 2009 when the economy was "in a tough place", but the problem continues to grow. He says thousands of Microsoft's customers are facing an IT skills shortage.

"Four out of five jobs require IT skills. Unemployment is rising and yet there is still an IT skills shortage," he says.

Frazer says youth unemployment is a specific concern and IT education is partly to blame. "The quality of IT training at school level is not great and does not put the IT industry in a good light," he says.

Building a bigger pool of IT skills

Microsoft started the Britain Works programme with the aim of helping half a million people over three years to gain new IT skills to move into IT careers, retrain or start new businesses.

The initiative has already helped 250,000 people into different jobs, ranging from graduates to start-ups, as well as reskilling people from construction and manufacturing with IT skills.

Frazer believes every company can find a way to recruit "fresh talent", whether through internships, work experience, apprenticeships or graduate programmes.

"Internships and work experience programmes can help break the Catch-22 cycle and get young people onto the job ladder," he says.

Frazer believes hiring young people into IT roles is beneficial for businesses as well as individuals.

"Bringing fresh DNA into the organisation brings a new perspective and wonderful naivety. Graduates can provide great insights of what young people want out of a technology company. Fresh enthusiasm and naïve ideas keep us on our toes and make our company better," he adds.

But as well as training the younger generation, Frazer says it is important for IT professionals to continually upskill and adapt to new technologies.

"In IT you've got to stay current on the latest and greatest. If you stick with one technology, you'll become as obsolete as the technology itself. Modern technology of new software releases and paradigms of changes that cloud computing brings to the IT department can make people nervous, but it can be seen as a huge opportunity," he concludes.

  • Computer Weekly is embarking on a programme of content called "IT Works" to provide a resource for anyone wishing to understand and build a career within IT – read more here

Read more on IT jobs and recruitment