Number of UK IT work permits surges 56%

The number of IT professionals coming to the UK from outside the EU has increased by 13% in the last year, representing the largest influx since the end of the recession.

In fact, 34,229 non-EU IT professionals entered the UK in 2014, up from 30,189 in the previous year. This compares with almost 25,000 in 2012; 21,000 in 2011 and 21,980 in 2010, official figures show.

Obtained from the Home Office by an accountant in the IT sector, SJD Accountancy, the figures relate to work permits issued to techies from non-EU countries for numerous roles.

The most in-demand roles included IT business analysts, architects and systems designers, programmers and software developers, web design and development specialists.

“As economic activity rebounds and spare capacity diminishes, the UK is once again becoming increasingly reliant on foreign IT skills,” said SJD’s chief executive Simon Curry.

“Despite attempts to rectify the UK’s historic underproduction of IT skills, we are in danger of becoming as reliant on foreign talent as we were before the recession.”

Referring to those attempts, the accountant pointed out that the number of people starting ICT apprenticeships in the UK has dropped to its lowest level in three years.

In particular, during 2013-14 about 13,000 people started ICT apprenticeships, which represents a decline of 33% from 2011/12, when 19,520 students began the apprenticeships.

In light of demand for IT skills in the UK currently rising, the subtext appears to be that IT skills shortages in the UK are “set to worsen.”

More positively, a SJD survey recently found that, for the first time since the recession, twice as many IT contractors are seeing rate increases than experiencing rate cuts.

About a quarter of the IT contractors surveyed reported an increase in their daily rates, compared with 13% who said they experienced reductions. In 2012, nearly twice as many IT contractors (29.1%) saw their rates decrease than increase (17.4%).

“Increased competition for the best candidates is starting to drive up IT sector pay,” reflected Mr Curry.

“The time it is taking to fill roles is lengthening and in many cases finding the appropriate skills can be very challenging. Under such circumstances hirers are increasingly likely to turn to foreign talent to plug skills gaps.”

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