Technologists: grow or import or both?

Sunday 13th July 2008
Technologies: Courtesy:

Two recent reports, one in May from technology trade association, Intellect and one in June from The Work Foundation warn that the UK will lose its base of highly skilled technology workers unless training and education is overhauled. UK must tackle a slump in technology teaching and employer training to avoid being forced to buy in top level talent from China and India. Both do not seem to have drawn comment or response.

The Intellect report says technology-related education is declining rapidly and that UK tech companies cannot recruit enough engineering, maths, science and technology graduates. While the tech sector needs more than 140,000 new entrants every year the number of applicants for single subject computer courses has fallen from 31,000 in 2001 to 16,000 in 2006 said the report.

Intellect said getting more talented and skilled individuals into the workforce by developing better links with the educators and trainers of the workforce, was one of six key boosters needed to stimulate the industry.

Richard Holway, of Farnham Consulting, warned the lack of people to fill entry-level jobs in technology threatens employers' ability to train up the next generation of project managers on the job in the UK.  "I am worried that unless we have these entry-level jobs in the UK the real skills in project management will disappear and we will have to buy that in from India or China."

John Higgins, director general of Intellect, said: "Every discussion we have with the members about what would help the sector focuses on the ability to get hold of the calibre of people they want is always on the same issues, the availability of people with the right talents and targeted skills in sufficient numbers."

The report, based on a survey of Intellect's 100-strong leaders network, predicts growth in the technology industry at 1-3% above UK GDP, saying a slowdown was expected in consumer electronics and telecoms, but there was a more positive outlook in the electronics sector.

Other boosters needed, identified in the report, were getting higher professional standards in the sector; improved trust and confidence in the sector's ability to deliver value securely; better exploitation of innovation; an improved communications infrastructure; and improved relations with other sectors.

Immigrants (right) Courtesy:
The new points-based immigration system will not be enough to ensure sufficient numbers of high-skilled workers come to Britain, while a hostile atmosphere will deter others, says the report  from The Work Foundation warning that Britain could loose out to other countries and  face a shortage of "knowledge workers" in the future - those involved in the IT, healthcare, science and technology fields - unless the government acts.

The UK has been successful in attracting foreign involvement so far, with 167,000 high-skilled workers arriving since 2005, official figures show. The bulk of these are Indian IT specialists, followed by workers from the United States, the Philippines, South Africa and Australia.
The UK employs the third-largest number of migrants with professional and technical skills, after the U.S. and Canada.

But an ageing population and an increasing demand for skilled workers elsewhere could result in a shortage. "Politicians need to actively make the case for highly skilled migration," said report author Katerina Rüdiger. "The new points-based system in the UK will not be enough on its own."

The lack of availability of so-called human capital -- the skills and aptitudes of people -- would deter foreign investment and result in falling competitiveness.
Human capital is among the most important factors influencing multinational companies when they decide to locate, said the report: "Towards a Global Labour Market?"

"Global firms need more global people - not just to fill shortages, but for the sake of enabling firms to innovate," it said, calling for the entry criteria to be relaxed, but not detailing any further specific requirements. Instead, the foundation called for the UK "to be seen as being among the most open and attractive places for highly skilled people to want to move".

"Talented people want career opportunities, the chance to expand knowledge by working with the brightest and best, good salaries, and the creation of diverse and exciting cities,"  adding that a climate of hostility towards immigration in general had the potential to harm the ability of firms to attract skilled, talented people from abroad.


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