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What can you do about the UK’s ICT engineering talent shortage?

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What can you do about the UK’s ICT engineering talent shortage?

THE HOLE

“Europe could face a shortage of more than 800,000 skilled ICT workers by 2020.” according to the European Commission – that’s a big hole. How are you going to fill it?

GERMANY’S RESPONSE TO THE PROBLEM

Already in Berlin where I live we’re impacted by finding ICT talent. Berlin also has a few more options over the UK. Zalando the biggest player in Berlin hoovers up much of the cities talent. As a booming technology town with hipsters everywhere and companies trying to out-innovate each other Zalando competes with N24, Google, Native Instruments, HappyCar and industry titan Innovation Hubs for the car, green energy, finance and pharma industry. I’m barely scratching the surface of the volume of activity here.

So who is building all these mobile apps and clever web interfaces? In Berlin we benefit from a high number of Russians, Romanians, Belarusians, Lithuanians, Ukrainians mixed in with Germans, Greeks, Brits, Brazilians and so on. It’s an incredible melting pot particularly for Easterners drawn by Berlin’s proximity and more flexible visa system.

As the CEO of Client Server, an IT recruitment firm explains ‘We [in the UK] are missing out on some amazing talent from Russia, Ukraine – and I mean genuinely gifted, world-class people [because] they can’t get visas.’

THE IMPLICATIONS FOR THE UK

Of course the UK can’t pick up its skirts and move closer to the East, and I’m uncertain the Visa situation is likely to improve to attract more talent, what with Brexit. So is it really worth considering the East as a way of filling the ICT skills shortage?

For the UK this should not mean missing out. If any country is good at thinking more creatively how to solve problems, it’s the UK. Getting access to Eastern European talent, and one country in particular, should still mean looking East for ICT talent is a serious option.

LOOK EAST AND CONSIDER THE FACTS

Salaries are obviously lower as you look Eastwards. A British software engineer with up to three years of experience will make an average of $77,508 (£53,519) working in London. In Ukraine, a similar worker will earn $30,000 (£20,715) and broadly speaking 83% of Ukrainian technology employees are interested in their work according to the DOU annual poll of IT specialists (with a 1 in 10 response rate).

Lower cost doesn’t have to mean lower quality. There’s a reason on Upwork Ukraine places after India and US for freelance projects completed despite being only 3% as populous as India and 14% as populous as the US. It can’t be only because Ukrainian Engineers are cheap, they’re actually good.

Ukrainians are on the rise, and in some ways outperform UK specifically in the level the country is investing into human capital. When compared to the UK, Ukraine has 10 times smaller GDP per capita and outperforms the UK in it’s investments into human capital through education, skills and employment opportunities for 15-24 year olds. According to the World Economic Forum’s Human Capital Index Ukraine places 15th and the UK 21st in the list of 130 countries. This means despite lower wages and living costs Ukrainian’s 15-25 year olds have better opportunities to make something of themselves than the equivalent age group in the UK. I find that staggering.

The point is there’s a lot of talent based in Ukraine, where people cost less and have a great work ethic. ICT talent can see how their craft is tightly coupled with an ability to create substantial purchasing power their parents never had. They are incredibly motivated to succeed.

CONCLUSION

Ukraine is a great opportunity for UK companies searching for ICT talent. The fact it’s much less expensive, is only 2 hours time difference and negates the accoutrements of employing in the UK such work-station and pay for electricity, heating, taxes, etc. are just bonus features.

What’s important is code is virtual and the reasons to work with Ukraine stack up. UK business not getting code built remotely in Ukraine are really missing the boat.

With just a little work UK companies willing to invest a little in Agile management can access a fresh talent pool. My company make it super easy – we handle all the recruitment and manage the work for our clients so any procedural obstacles are rapidly overcome. This is a genuine opportunity to plug some the ICT skills gap.

Come on, let’s give it a go.

Author: Markus Smet

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