UK will be 33,300 short of IT workers by 2050, finds research

The UK will be short of 33,300 IT workers in 2050 as a result of a skills shortage, an ageing workforce and a restrictive migration policy

The UK will be short of 33,300 IT workers in 2050 due to a lack of skills, an ageing workforce and a restrictive migration policy, according to recruitment company Ranstad Technologies.

This problem is also leading to an increase in IT salaries as businesses compete for a limited pool of workers.

By 2050, there will be a shortfall of 3.1 million workers – some 9% of the required workforce – across all sectors in the UK, with IT in the top five professions in terms of size of shortfall. Only teaching (128,000), construction (66,800), nursing 61,200 and engineering 36,800 will have bigger shortages.

Randstad analysed the projected changes in UK population and working age rate for 2050 to establish the gap between employment demand and workforce supply.

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Migration dimishes pool of skilled IT workers

The report found that migration is a major factor in creating the shortage of IT workers. “The IT and tech sectors are suffering shortages across many skills areas, and migration is one of the key reasons for the deficiency. Since 2007, overall work-related emigration from the UK has risen 16%, while work-related immigration has fallen 24% over the same period.”

The report added that the UK is unable to attract workers to fill this gap. “The combination of poor economic performance and changes to immigration policy have made the UK a less attractive place to work among the world’s most talented professionals,” it said.  

Mike Beresford, managing director of Randstad Technologies, said: “The IT and tech sectors are vital for the overall health of the UK economy – the countries which lead the digital evolution are the ones that will recover fastest. With the growth of technology hubs such as Silicon Roundabout in London over the last few years we have proved the UK can be at the forefront of digital and IT progression, and it’s vital we continue this trend.

“Our projections for the size of the IT and technology workforce are conservative, yet they paint a very grim picture for the UK’s economic prospects. Unless we can plug the employment gap, we’ll be unable to capitalise on the advance and growth we’ve achieved over the last few years, and this will have serious consequences for the overall prosperity of the country,” he added.

Since 2007, overall work-related emigration from the UK has risen 16%, while work-related immigration has fallen 24% over the same period

Randstad Technologies

Randstad’s report states that IT salaries are already rising as businesses attempt to avoid shortages. It said in the next 12 months workers with skills in IT systems and infrastructure will see the largest pay rises. 

According to Randstad’s most recent salary survey, pay for IT systems roles in London is forecast to rise by 20.4% this year, while pay for those working in IT infrastructure and IT change management will increase 11.1% and 10.3% respectively in 2013.

Outsourcing blocks skills pipeline

A recent Computer Weekly survey revealed that 82% of respondents think IT outsourcing has contributed to a shortage of UK IT professionals.

According to many in the IT sector, outsourcing, and more specifically offshoring, is being blamed for a shortage in certain IT skills. There are IT graduates looking for work, but they struggle to get work experience and the skills this provides. This, many say, is because entry-level jobs are taken by offshore workers who work for less money.

John Harris, chair of The Corporate IT Forum and chief architect and head of IT strategy at pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), 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 said. "While outsourcing did bring value, people moved jobs that should not have been moved. We outsourced our skills pipeline."

This meant the IT prospects for young people were effectively hamstrung as they were not given a chance to enter the industry.

"Yes, it may be more economical to outsource to India, but such a job may be the type of work that gives an apprentice a real grounding in IT," he said.

Forecast of IT pay increases in 2013 by specialism
Development 9.4%
Technical support 4%
Business intelligence and business analytics 10%
Architecture 9.1%
Change management 10.3%
Infrastructure 11.1%
Data management -1%
Project management 2.2%
Enterprise resource planning (ERP) 3.2%
Software -6.9%
Source: Ranstad Technologies


Image: Thinkstock


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