The IT skills market in the UK is being adversely affected by a tendency amongst companies to outsource IT functions to foreign nationals willing to accept lower pay rates than their British equivalents, a survey of IT professionals by Computer Weekly suggests.

Over three quarters of those polled (78%), who included specialists in IT contracting, said they thought that IT outsourcing was depleting the UK skills set. In particular, the respondents pointed to the increasing use of intra-company visas, which permit firms to pass work on to employees in India, a country with huge reserves of skilled IT professionals, most of whom are willing to accept pay rates well below that demanded by British experts.

Computer Weekly predicts that this practise will result in a huge IT skills shortage over the next few years, unless we begin now to equip 100,000 new people with the necessary IT qualifications and knowledge. Europe as a whole will need to train up as many as 700,000 new techies if a serious skills drought is to be prevented.

A number of respondents urged the government to act now to prevent firms parachuting in low-cost, inexperienced graduate trainees from India so that homegrown professionals get to have a fair bite of the cherry. One respondent noted that many firms have dropped in-service training altogether and simply expect candidates to hit the ground running when they take up their new role – an experience familiar to many PAYE umbrella techies who are well used to such scenarios.

Several other respondents called on government to redouble its efforts to promote IT careers in schools and invest more money in technological innovation.

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