LONDON, England – If Brexit forces tens of thousands of Eastern European web developers to apply for visas to remain in the UK, London’s tech revolution will face a brain drain.
The IT skills gap in London is being plugged by highly skilled and sought after migrants from Romania, Poland and the Baltic countries, who have benefited from the focus on science and mathematics in former soviet bloc schools and universities.
If Britain votes to leave the UK, then the right of free movement within the EU will be withdrawn and workers from EU States will have to apply to enter the UK through the much criticised non-EU resident’s visa.
O2 have predicted that the UK will have to find 750,000 workers with digital skills by 2017 in order to keep up with the pace of change. On current trends London alone will have 21,000 vacant digital positions in the next two years.
Just seven successful visa applications were made through the Government’s Exceptional Talent Visa Scheme in the last 12 months since Tech City UK was added to the Government scheme, according to an investigation by Tech World.
“The solution is to train a ‘home grown army’,” says Eric Dodds, CMO of Iron Yard, the US’s largest coding school, which has chosen London to open its first office outside the U.S.
“The IT skills gap is global and coders from Eastern Europe will simply move to France or Germany who have similar skills problems rather than bother with the hassle and expense of visa applications.”
“The UK’s skills crisis means there is a huge appetite in London, and outside the M25, for courses that can turn out experienced developers in just 12 weeks, both from an employer’s point of view as well as from employees who are in a sellers’ market especially if the Eastern Europeans move on.”
A recent Select Committee report into the digital economy, says the UK is ‘lagging behind’ its competitors in IT training and the National Audit Office has said that it will take the UK twenty years to bridge the skills gap particularly in online security.
According to the Office of National Statistics 895,000 East European migrants are working in the UK.