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Skills Needed in the UK Tech Sector
London’s technology sector is one of its largest sources of job creation, with around 90,000 companies employing around 582,000 people. All in all, it accounts for about 27% of job growth.
Furthermore, the technology sector has grown 16% between 2009 and 2012; and the UK government is looking to ensure that growth continues with the introduction of visa reforms that will make it easier for technology experts to ply their trade in London.
According to Joanna Shields, Tech City’s chief executive and ambassador for digital industries; companies operating in London’s technology hub have reported difficulties finding talent, despite the sector’s rapid progress. By speeding up the application process for internationally recognized IT specialists, the government hopes to further secure the UK’s position as one of the world’s leading digital economies.
Making Way for Exceptional Talent
The government introduced its Tier 1 Exceptional Visa in 2011, allowing for migrants with high levels of skill in specific areas to gain entry to the UK.
However, only 7 exceptional talent visas were granted that year, due to the extremely stringent policies that govern the application process. For example, only 1,000 Exceptional Talent visas can be issued annually, as opposed to the 50,000 Tier 1 (General) visas that were issued in 2009.
Furthermore, anyone applying for an Exceptional Talent visa must be endorsed by one of the four Designated Competent Bodies (DCB). They are: The Royal Society, Arts Council England, The British Academy and the Royal Academy of Engineering.
The plan is to introduce a fifth Designated Competent Body – in this case the Tech City Investment Organisation (TCIO), with the authority to endorse programmers and grant them eligibility for the Exceptional Talent visa, provided the applicant is internationally recognized as a leading talent. The Tech City Investment Organisation was founded by the government’s UK Trade & Investment Department for the purpose of encouraging growth in London’s East End technology hub.
In addition, the government will allot 15.5 million Euros to its Technology Strategy Board for investment in the UK technology sector. Of that number, 12.5 million will be set aside for competitions to encourage research and development projects, while a further three competitions with 1 million each will be used to create new technology clusters.
London Technology Hub
Tech City is a burgeoning technology hub situated in Central and East London, for which the visa reforms will provide an invaluable influx of skills and manpower. The financial investment will encourage further business growth, as the UK government looks to create its very own version of Silicon Valley.
Furthermore, as part of a collaboration with digital communications provider EE, businesses that have been recognized by Tech City will be granted access to their new 300 Mbps 4G service. EE has committed itself to London’s drive for technology sector dominance, assuring Tech City businesses that their area will be prioritized for high-speed internet service.
As economies around the world become increasingly information-based, the UK government is recognizing that technology skills and businesses will be instrumental in maintaining its economic growth. This is emphasized by the introduction of a UK Digital Services Index, which will rank technology companies listed on the London Stock Exchange.
The visa reforms will make it easier for the people with the necessary skills to obtain the coveted Exceptional Talent visa, and thus help ensure the continued prosperity of the UK’s flourishing technology sector. It’s hoped that the changes will not only benefit Tech City businesses, but lead to the creation of numerous technology hubs throughout the country.
- License: Creative Commons image source
Matthew Flax writes about the UK’s need for technology experts, so they can build more gadgets which can then be blown up in the next James Bond movie.