UK facing IT skills crunch by 2012

The government has been urged to offer employers tax and national insurance breaks while their staff are on full-time training courses to address severe skills shortages in IT.

The UK, at the bottom of the OECD league tables for workforce qualifications, is alone in its failure to offer tax incentives to employers to develop existing staff, according to IT professional member organisation Imis.

Without incentives, the UK faces an IT  “skills crunch” by 2012, as work on the Olympics, the government’s ID card programme, the NHS IT modernisation and “transformational government” plans soak up supplies of skilled IT managers, Imis warned.

“The UK could face a digital winter of discontent during the run-up to the next general election,” said Philip Virgo, strategic adviser at Imis.

E-Skills UK, the sector skills council for IT, backed the calls for more government support for training IT professionals.

Karen Price, chief executive of E-Skills, said she would welcome government support, either through tax breaks or subsidised training.

“I think there need to be incentives for individuals and employers to support the acute shortages we see in the nation,” she said.

Price said universities were trying to plug some of the gaps, but warned it would be some years for the benefits to filter out to industry.

“I think we have made really good traction in terms of working with the education system to better prepare young people for the skills that are needed today. But it will be some time before they hit the marketplace,” she said.

“We are back in another growth cycle that will lead to an acute skills shortage, but we have survived them in the past,” she added.

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