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Plugging the it Skills Gap: Should we be Encouraging More Skilled Foreign Workers?

Aug 17, 2008
In a recent report by the Work Foundation, entitled Towards a global labour market? Globalisation and the knowledge market, the issue of using skilled foreign workers to help plug skills gap in UK industries was explored. The report concluded that there was an identified need to encourage more migrant workers, from both inside and outside of the European Union, in order to secure the future growth of technology and knowledge intensive industries, in a global economy.

This report was supported by numerous industry experts and is certainly one way to plug the gap and solve the problem of the skills shortage. However, while encouraging skilled foreign workers to enter UK industries in need of skills is an option, isn't there something to be said for exploiting the existing capabilities of people here in the UK through providing both the financial and vocational support necessary to become 'skilled' first? But how, with so many restrictions placed on obtaining Government funding, can this become a realistic solution?

The career changer

The missing link is training and encouraging career changers to move from areas that aren't affected by a lack of skills, into areas that are. People, here in the UK, need to be encouraged and supported by the Government to retrain for a career in the sectors that are threatened by skills shortages, such as IT and engineering. The current system falls short as funding for Government training schemes is channeled through employers; so training for a new career whilst working is inaccessible for thousands of people unable to fund themselves.

Moving forward with funding

The recent announcement that 18- to 25-year-olds in some parts of England who have never passed A-levels or got good GCSEs will be given an online skills account with the equivalent of 7,000 in credits is a breakthrough in this area. However, whilst this is a step in the right direction there's still a long way to go with regards to providing funding for qualifications demanded by industry. For many young people, the prospect of learning towards qualifications that they have already failed or could not relate to at school or college is discouraging to say the least.

In my view, providing funding issues are addressed, it is schemes like this which have the potential to enable industry to plug the IT skills gap and for individuals to gain useful and recognised qualifications of their choice. And this should be our primary focus. Giving choice and financial incentive to train offers a positive outlook for individuals and should be a reassurance to industry that there is a solution to the IT skills crisis.

Going one step further would be to open up these funding options for career changers - those who are in low-skilled and unfulfilling jobs who have the enthusiasm and ability to train for jobs in demand in industries such as IT. I recognise the need and value of bringing in highly skilled overseas workers to fulfil positions in the UK short term, but the Government's long term strategy to develop the workforce must be rooted in a culture of training, development and opportunity.
About the Author
Karl Parkinson, Chairman. Computeach - With over 40 years of experience in the IT Training Industry, Computeach provides innovative and truly blended learning solutions to a wide range of customers. visit - www.computeach.co.uk For interviews, images or comments contact: Rosie Gallagher, Marketing Communications Executive, Computeach International Ltd, 01384 245 308, rosie.gallagher@computeach.co.uk
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