More foreign IT professionals entering UK to fill widening skills gap

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The number of IT professionals coming to the UK from outside the EU to address worsening skills shortages has increase by 13 percent in the past year, according to SJD Accountancy, the UK’s leading contractor services provider.

This increase is due to the supply of IT skills failing to keep pace with rising demand in the UK. The official Home Office data states that 34,229 non-EU IT professionals entered the UK in 2014, up from 30,189 in 2013. This is the highest number since the recession ended, with 21,976 entering the UK in 2010.

Simon Curry, chief executive officer of SJD Accountancy, comments:

“As economic activity rebounds and spare capacity diminishes, the UK is once again becoming increasingly reliant on foreign IT skills.”

The most in-demand roles include IT business analysts, architects, systems designers, programmers and software developers, web design and development specialists.

SJD Accountancy says that the number of work permits issued to IT professionals is a statistically important metric of demand for tech skills across the board, as well as for specific areas of shortage.

Simon Curry adds:

“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.”

The number of people starting ICT apprenticeships has dropped to its lowest level in three years. In 2013/14 12,060 people started ICT apprenticeships, a decline of 33 percent from 2011/12, when 19,520 students began apprenticeships.

Curry continues:

“The number of computer science qualifications obtained at apprenticeship and degree level is falling just as demand for IT skills is rising. 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.”

A recent survey of IT contractors found that for the first time since the recession, twice as many IT contractors are seeing rate increases than experiencing rate cuts. 25.4 percent of IT contractors are reporting an increase in their daily rates, compared to 12.6 percent who are experiencing reduction in their pay. In 2012 nearly twice as many IT contractors (29.1%) saw their rates cut than increased (17.4%).

Curry concludes:

“Increased competition for the best candidates is starting to drive up IT sector pay. The time it is taking to fill roles is lengthening and in many cases finding the appropriate skills can be very challenging. Under such circumstances hirers are increasingly likely to turn to foreign talent to plug skills gaps.”

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