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Estonian CIO gives UK IT professionals hope as Brexit removes rights

Tech chief says Estonia’s door is open to UK IT professionals if they want to continue enjoying an EU lifestyle

Estonia’s chief information officer has told British IT professionals that the country will offer some of them the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of living and working in the European Union (EU), as the UK leaves the biggest single market area in the world.

The message from Estonia – which has a population of just 1.3 million – will also lure talent from other parts of Europe as IT professionals across the EU seek alternatives to the UK.

Speaking on the eve of Brexit, Estonia’s tech chief, Siim Sikkut, said the country is always looking for tech talent.

He called on UK IT professionals to consider the small Baltic state as a platform to boost their careers. “Our pitch to you Brits is: don’t worry about Brexit, accelerate your career by joining the true digital society and live easy by taking your skills to Estonia,” he said.

“IT workers who want to continue to enjoy all the many benefits of Europe’s political and economic partnership, no matter what happens with Brexit, our doors are always open.”

Foreign workers are being lured to Estonia’s small, but growing, economy. The country is in the middle of a major campaign to address its skills gap through the government-backed Work in Estonia programme.

Tech entrepreneurs are also being targeted through Estonia’s e-Residency programme, which enables non-resident entrepreneurs to set up businesses registered in Estonia. Many thousands have signed up to the programme since its launch in 2014. These companies can take advantage of Estonia’s advanced digital government services.

The country boasts major tech startups such as Bolt and Transferwise, as well as being home to Skype. It is also a pioneer in the digital sector, with advanced digital government services available to residents and businesses.

“Estonia is one of the most digitally advanced nations on Earth,” said Sikkut. “So we are always on the lookout for talented individuals who want to accelerate their career and be part of our digital society.”

Read more about Estonia’s IT development

Sikkut said about 3,700 Estonian companies are currently hiring. “Alongside this, we have a rich history and culture, crime rates are low, sustainability is high on the government’s agenda, and rent in Tallinn is times cheaper than in Amsterdam and eight times more affordable than San Francisco,” he said.

Speaking to Computer Weekly last year, Michael Kent, founder and CEO of app-based remittance provider Azimo, which is based in London, said there was already a shortage of UK talent. “Access to talent is a huge and ongoing problem,” he said. “The fintech sector relies heavily on global talent to plug the serious skills gap facing this country.

“Millennial workers are looking at cities like Berlin, Barcelona and Amsterdam to grow professionally – and they are also attracted to the vibrancy of these hubs and the lower cost of living.”

Russ Shaw, founder of Tech London Advocates and Global Tech Advocates, said the tech community will also be keeping a close eye on the UK’s post-Brexit immigration policy. “The Migration Advisory Committee’s recommendations this week to lower the salary threshold are welcome, particularly for international students who want to transfer to a Tier 2 visa after their studies finish,” he said.

“However, the government must do more, further lowering the threshold to help the UK’s thriving tech startup community and immediately abolish the cap on Tier 2 visas altogether. The introduction of a Global Talent Visa is a step in the right direction to attract exceptional talent here, but it remains to be seen whether supply will come to meet demand in a sector crying out for skilled talent.”

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