UK IT professionals have been urged to develop business and management skills, following new indications that the rate of offshore outsourcing is increasing.
Computer Weekly revealed last week that the number of work permits issued to overseas IT workers had reached an all-time high of 32,251, up from 22,000 a year ago. A major driver for this was identified as offshore companies bringing their own staff to the UK to work on outsourcing contracts.
The trend has highlighted the need for UK IT professionals to develop management, communication and business-focused skills, industry experts said this week.
"Those who are trying to compete on technical skills, where it is cheaper to train in India, are operating at a disadvantage," said Philip Virgo, strategic adviser at the Institute for the Management of Information Systems.
Future generations of IT professionals will need to develop both business and technical skills, or have the capability to manage outsourcing contracts, if they are going to add value to employers, he said.
Elizabeth Sparrow, chair of the British Computer Society working party on offshoring, said IT professionals must face up to the changes that offshore outsourcing would bring.
"There are a lot of positive things we can do. The surveys we have done with employers consistently show that they want to employ more IT professionals in the UK. But they are looking for a different combination of skills than they have in the past," she said.
"They want interpersonal skills, project management skills and relationship management skills. The ability to know how to source IT work, when to buy from overseas, and managing outsourcing agreements."
Sparrow added that employers needed to be aware that they should train for longer-term skills, not just short-term technical skills.
Virgo also highlighted the importance of training and called on the government to offer tax breaks to businesses and individuals who invest in training.
The estimated 100,000 IT professionals in the UK working on large systems integration would be most affected by offshore outsourcing, said Virgo. However, offshoring would have relatively little impact in the City of London, aerospace and pharmaceuticals, he said.
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