Government removes IT skills from visa list

Instead of supporting British industry and jobs, the scheme is contributing to job losses and is undermining the knowledge economy, says contractors group

The government has removed C++ and Javascript from the list of IT skills in shortest supply after a campaign from the Professional Contractors Group (PCG) pointed out that there was no skills shortage in these areas.

The PCG represents the interests of 14,000 workers in the knowledge-based sector and in autumn 2001 became a member of government's Skills Sector Panel. The panel advises which skills in the IT sector are in short supply, allowing overseas IT workers to get fast-track visas to fill the shortage.

In March the PCG scored another success for its members when the job title Oracle Database Administrator was removed from the list. In 2001 other IT skills, including programming languages, Java, Perl and Visual Basic were also removed from the list.

The PCG claims it has demonstrated that many parts of the list are out of date, and that in other cases, the scheme has been open to misuse and abuse. Philip Ross, PCG policy adviser, said, "The whole issue of tackling skills shortages is being looked at the wrong way round." At the moment, he said, the PCG is having to demonstrate that a skill should be removed from the list by showing that there are hundreds of people out of work or out of contract in the UK who possess that particular skill. "The aim of the scheme is to support British industry and jobs, but it is actually contributing to job losses and is undermining our knowledge economy," he added.

The Association of Technology Staffing Companies (ATSCo) points out that IT contracts are often a short-term solution. Many SMEs have an acute need for IT workers, it says, but do not have the resources to undergo the lengthy and costly arrangements to arrange a short-term overseas placement.

New measures aimed at tackling skills shortages in IT experienced by small businesses were announced last week by Margaret Hodge, the minister for lifelong learning and higher education, reports Contractor UK. Eighteen regional groups of higher education institutions, further education colleges and private sector partners were given the go-ahead to become New Technology Institutes (NTIs) with the brief to offer high quality training in advanced technology skills both to businesses and students.

Announcing the New Technology Institutes, which are receiving funds of £25m, Margaret Hodge said: "NTIs offer a new and exciting opportunity for further and higher education and industry to work together to deliver the latest information technology training in an accessible and responsive way for up to 10,000 people by 2005."

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