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The number of IT professionals from outside the European Union (EU) plying their trade in the UK increased by 13% in 2014 compared with the previous year, according to government figures.
While the increase suggestst a skills shortage, many in the IT sector will point to the Intra Company Transfer (ICT) visa route where IT suppliers with a presence in the UK can bring staff onshore to work on contracts.
According to the figures obtained by contractor service provider SJD Accountancy, 34,229 non-EU IT professionals entered the UK in 2014 compared with 30,189 in 2013. There has been a 56% increase in the number since 2010.
SJD Accountancy CEO Simon Curry said the UK is once again becoming increasingly reliant on foreign IT skills.
“Despite attempts to rectify the UK’s historic underproduction of IT skills, we are in danger of becoming as reliant on foreign talent as we were before the recession,” he said.
“These numbers show that the expansion of the UK tech sector is at risk if the UK is unable to keep up with demand for IT skills. Skill shortages can delay projects and push up costs for businesses.”
In 2013/14, 13,060 people started ICT apprenticeships, which is a decline of 33% from 2011/12, when 19,520 began apprenticeships.
“The number of computer science qualifications obtained at apprenticeship and degree level is falling just as demand for IT skills is rising," said Curry.
"Organisations which utilise IT skills are often highly mobile and an appropriately skilled workforce is usually a major factor in determining where they base themselves. Unless the UK can increase the number of people obtaining IT qualifications, these organisations will face tough choices about where in the world they operate from,” he added.
The UK government recently announced plans to both reduce the number of non-EU workers in the UK and increase the UK skills base.
In June 2015, the government asked the Migration Advisory Committee to examine proposals to reduce the number of workers coming into the UK from outside Europe, with a proposed increase in the minimum salary paid to staff brought to the UK by overseas suppliers – which could make it a less attractive option.
If approved, the government’s proposed changes will raise minimum salary thresholds, reform the skills shortage list and add a charge for ICT visas for investment in developing homegrown UK skills.
Read more about IT skills from overseas
- The UK government is making noises about reducing the number of non-EU workers in the UK – and the IT industry could be the focal point for this
- UK government seeks advice on proposals to reduce the number of workers from outside Europe in the UK, which could change the way Indian IT suppliers operate in the UK
- The number of overseas workers entering the UK on intra company transfers (ICTs) has increased since the government introduced its cap on immigration