Government proposals to toughen immigration of foreign IT workers could lead to a shortage of skilled software IT architects and project managers, industry pundits have warned.
Yesterday, government advisers the Migration Advisory Committee outlined proposals that would effectively limit the number of foreign IT workers in the country. By not including them on a list of careers suffering a staff supply shortage, UK employees will find it harder to hire IT workers from outside the European Union.
Martyn Hart, chairman of the National Outsourcing Association, said this would not impact outsourcing firms too adversely as a large amount of outsourcing takes place offshore.
“It will have a minor effect,” he said, explaining that a “great deal” of outsourcing is offshore software development. “If you’re offshoring for particular skills, you’re not country bound,” he said.
But the proposals could create a grave problem for software architecture expertise in the country, as well as for businesses trying to make sure their systems interconnect properly, warned Iain Smith, founder of IT human resources consultancy Diaz Research.
Smith said there was a real danger that as companies were forced to rely more on offshoring software development, there would be only a small talent pool of software developers in the UK who would turn into architects.
“There’s no training solution to the shortage of those [senior IT architect] skills. They have to be learnt on the job,” he said. “Senior IT architects are vital; they have to make sure the systems work together, and they set the technology strategy of their companies.”
“I think there’s a case for limited exception for software architects," he stated. "A lack of them could mean the quality of systems in companies is not as good as it should have been.”
The supply of project managers is also a concern, Smith said. But he added: “That skill is a little easier to develop and can come from a greater range of sources, not just IT.”