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CIO Jury: Bosses snub cheap overseas IT labour

'We've got all the skills we need here in the UK', say IT chiefs...

UK bosses have raised questions about the extent of the country's IT skills shortage, claiming they haven't yet been forced to recruit IT staff from overseas in order to plug skills gaps in their IT departments.

Earlier this week the UK government announced an overhaul of the system for granting work permits and visas to overseas migrants seeking employment in the UK.

Under the new five-tier, points-based system, it will be easier for IT workers from countries such as India to get a work permit or visa to come to the UK. The IT industry here welcomed the system as a way to plug the shortage of certain IT skills in the UK.

But 11 out of the 12 IT chiefs on silicon.com's CIO Jury IT user panel said they haven't found it necessary to recruit IT workers from abroad in order to plug IT skills gaps here in the UK.

Jacques Rene, director of IT and projects at Airclaims, was the only one on the panel to disagree. "Sadly there is still a skills shortage in the UK and Indian nationals are that much better trained," he said.

Others said they still manage to recruit their IT staff from the UK but admitted they do get applicants from overseas.

David Supple, head of IT and creative services at Ecotec, said: "Whilst we don't get the large numbers of applicants we perhaps had three years ago for posts, the quality of the applications makes up for the smaller numbers. However we are still seeing applications coming from Eastern Europe and as far away as the Middle East."

Kevin Swindin, CIO at London's City University, agreed. "Up until now, we have been able to recruit domestically, though this sometimes has involved multiple iterations through a recruitment exercise which make the cost of recruitment higher than I would like," he said.

Although the NHS is known for recruiting doctors and nurses from abroad to fill shortages in the UK, the same does not seem to apply to IT departments in the health service, according to Ted Woodhouse, director of IT strategy at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.

He said: "Our IT strategy is, amongst other things, trying to move towards requiring skills only in those areas where they are relatively plentiful."

What is the state of the UK workforce? silicon.com would like to know and to find out we have launched our eighth annual Skills Survey. Take part in one of the biggest studies of its type in the UK and, if you're lucky, you could land yourself a half case of champagne.

Today's CIO Jury was...

Neil Bath, IT director, Brewin Dolphin Securities
Peter Birley, IT director, Browne Jacobson
Les Boggia, IT division head, Carole Nash Insurance
Paul Haley, head of IS operations, The British Library
Adrian Hughes, head of IS, Amlin
John Keeling, director of computer services, John Lewis
Andy Pepper, director of business information systems, Tetley
Jacques Rene, director of IT and projects, Airclaims
Peter Ryder, head of ICT, Preston City Council
David Supple, head of IT and creative services, Ecotec
Kevin Swindin, CIO, City University
Ted Woodhouse, director of IT strategy, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

If you are a CIO, IT director or equivalent at a large or small company in the private or public sector and you want to be part of silicon.com's CIO Jury pool, or you know an IT chief who should be, then drop us a line at editorial@silicon.com.

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