UK aims to lure back 100,000 IT staff

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The Independent Online

Alex Allen, the Government's e-envoy, is working on a plan to tempt up to 100,000 IT professionals back to the UK and stem the brain drain of skilled computer professionals.

Alex Allen, the Government's e-envoy, is working on a plan to tempt up to 100,000 IT professionals back to the UK and stem the brain drain of skilled computer professionals.

Mr Allen, who runs a unit within the Cabinet Office to promote Britain's e-commerce credentials, is due to meet Chancellor Gordon Brown in October to discuss the idea and lodge a request for funding.

The move follows a £4m Department for Trade and Industry initiative announced last month to tempt top scientists back to the UK.

Concern is growing in the IT sector that a shortage of computer professionals could harm the economy. It is estimated that this year there is a 12 per cent shortage - 220,470 people. According to the Computer Software Services Association, whose members include Microsoft and Oracle, the shortfall could cost UK business £30bn by 2003.

Brian Couling, a director at Sun Microsystems, said: "In the past two years it certainly has become more difficult to recruit trained IT staff. As a result we have doubled our graduate recruitment programme and offered staff more incentives to stay."

A government source close to the Cabinet Office said: "We want to encourage the brightest minds back to the UK. We have to aim high. If we could get back 100,000 people in two years I would be very happy."

The initiative will be two-pronged - offering financial incentives to top computer experts and marketing the benefits of working in the UK. Computer employees could be given financial incentives to prevent them leaving the UK.

The west cost of America is understood to be a key recruitment target. "There are 900,000 people with a British passport working there. Getting 10 per cent back would be very good," the source said.

The shortage of IT professionals has been triggered by the rapidly expanding computer and dot com industry - focused in London and the Thames Valley - and recent tax changes that prompted a drift of freelance computer professionals to continental Europe.

Rick Bacon, corporate development director at computer recruitment company Parity Software, said: "Many IT experts have moved to Germany, France and Italy, where, as well as the tax advantages, the lifestyle is very attractive.

"It's going to require a huge initiative on the part of the Government to sort out the imbalance because the demand won't go away."

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