Offshoring is a controversial topic at the best of times – and one that’s becoming increasingly contentious as the recession continues to see thousands of jobs lost across the country.
It’s also been accused of sapping UK IT skills by reducing the number of entry-level IT jobs available for UK graduates, giving fewer techies a chance to get a first foot on the ladder.
But do UK tech chiefs agree?
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Asked whether offshoring of IT projects and infrastructure is having a negative impact on IT skills in the UK, seven out of 12 silicon.com CIO Jury members said they believe it is.
Peter Birley, IT director of Browne Jacobson, said: “By its very nature [offshoring] must have an impact on UK IT skills. You can’t move large chunks of IT work abroad without it reducing the opportunities for UK skills. Whether it is right or wrong is another issue but it will reduce the UK’s ability to compete at the technology level.”
Birley’s view is echoed by Graham Benson, IT director of M and M Direct, who said that while skilled personnel can still find jobs, there are fewer opportunities for other tech workers to build up their skills: “More demand directed offshore equals less demand onshore, and whilst the skilled personnel will always secure roles, it restricts career opportunities for people looking to progress up the ladder, as there will be a lack of available vacancies.”
Ben Acheson, IT manager at PADS Printing and Commercial Stationery, believes the offshoring of first line support jobs is a particular problem for UK Plc.
“We are throwing away an important route for UK workers to get into the IT industry,” he said. “We are sacrificing quality to cut costs and alienating internal and external customers who struggle to communicate with poorly trained foreign call centre workers.”
“Managers need to wake up and see the bigger picture. Those call centres and their employees are our customers and we are shipping them out to other economies. It is time for us all to take a stand and reverse this short-sighted trend,” he added.
A career choice for young people
Another problem with offshoring is that it is undermining interest in IT as a career choice for young people, according to Peter Pedersen, CTO of Figleaves.com.
“I think offshoring IT has had a serious negative impact on the number of young people being attracted to the industry and seeking a higher education in technology-related subjects,” he said, adding: “It is time to review how we attract and excite youngsters for a future career in technology and in the business application and use of technology.”
Other IT chiefs cited difficulties in hiring qualified staff as evidence shows UK skill levels have been hit by offshoring.
“We are already struggling to find…
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…sufficiently interested and qualified people out of our universities to fill roles,” said Alan Bawden, IT & operations director at The JM Group, adding: “They will be further put off a career in IT by the prospect of not having any job or the threat that their job will be outsourced in the next round of cost cuts.”
Mike Roberts, IT director at The London Clinic, added: “I have been trying to recruit infrastructure skills and there is a lack of staff available at all levels.”
But not all IT chiefs are of the opinion that offshoring is bad for UK tech skills.
Matthew Oakeley, CIO of Schroders, dismissed the notion that skills have been compromised. “I can see the potential threat but we have not noticed a skills shortage of quality development and IT staff in the UK,” he said.
While Dr Ben Booth, global chief technology officer at Ipsos, said offshoring merely reflects an inevitable shift in skillsets across all industries.
“The balance of work is changing so that the high value management and strategy remains in the UK but the lower skilled commoditised jobs are moving offshore or near shore. This is the same for all industries and I would not expect IT to be different. We must of course ensure that we maintain the management skills,” he said.
This CIO Jury was:
- Ben Acheson, IT manager, PADS Printing and Commercial Stationery
- Alan Bawden, IT & operations director, The JM Group
- Alastair Behenna, CIO, Harvey Nash
- Graham Benson, IT director, M and M Direct
- Peter Birley, IT director, Browne Jacobson
- Dr Ben Booth, global chief technology officer, Ipsos
- Pete Crowe, IT director, Fat Face
- Madhushan Gokool, IT manager, Storm Model Management
- Peter Pedersen, chief technology officer, Figleaves.com
- Matthew Oakeley, CIO, Schroders
- Mike Roberts, IT director, The London Clinic
- Richard Storey, head of IT, Guys & St Thomas Hospital
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