04 August 2006

IT Recruitment in the UK

A recent report by the trade union Amicus claims that the work permit system may be being abused as regards to IT recruitment. The figures certainly point to a big increase in permits for IT staff: an increase from 1,800 to 30,000 per annum over a ten year period. It was also reported recently that one in five companies claim difficulties in appointing suitable IT staff, and there seems to be a widespread view that there is an IT skills shortage in the UK. My own experience is different, I work in a University where salaries are not competitive with the best jobs in industry, but in the last couple of years we have had between 40 and 120 applicants for each job we have advertised, and the general standard of candidate has been good.

Why is our experience apparently so different? It is because for most entry level jobs I do not ask for a minimum level of experience. Many companies restrict themselves to looking for high quality staff who have experience. Such people usually command higher salaries and the companies that employ them are (quite sensibly) likely to do everything they can to ensure staff retention, so relatively few of them are likely to be looking for jobs. Some employers baulk at paying the high salary usually needed to attract such staff so they look to importing people who frequently are prepared to work for less money. There are, however, in my experience a large number of talented individuals who do not qualify for many of the jobs advertised because they do not have formal experience. Everyone has to have a first job but companies who refuse to consider staff without experience are abrogating their responsibilties to take part in the training of people new to the workplace. In my view employers are hurting themselves by taking this view and missing out on some of the best staff. If you have to choose between talent and experience for an entry level job then go for talent.

I do not believe there is a shortage of IT staff in the UK - it is an artefact of the conservative attititude of many employers.

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