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Offshoring is bad for IT skills, say UK tech chiefs

Started by gopu, Aug 07, 2009, 05:56 AM

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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?

Photo credit: sacks08 via Flickr.com under the following Creative Commons licence

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."

The balance of work is changing so that the high value management and strategy remains in UK but the lower skilled commoditised jobs are moving offshore or near shore.

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.

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