Letters: IT 'skills shortage' is largely a myth

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Terry Lloyd (letters, 16 December) calls for more computer science in schools to provide recruits to "an industry in which the UK already excels" and to nurture polymaths and well-rounded IT professionals.

I agree that young people should be able to study computer science if they have the interest and aptitude, but as an IT professional I must question his rosy view of the industry.

When I joined the IT industry in 1987, it was expanding rapidly and there were not enough computer science graduates, so employers recruited people from other disciplines and trained them in the skills needed by the industry.

By drawing from a wider pool of talents, particularly women, the industry also gained a wide range of non-technical skills.

By the late 1990s, IT had become a standard subject in school and universities had massively expanded their IT teaching to produce huge numbers of mostly male graduates.

The industry largely stopped recruiting and training non-specialists at junior levels, because there were plenty of IT graduates, and well-rounded polymaths were no longer seen as suitable recruits.

In recent years, the massive impact of outsourcing development work to cheaper offshore locations, and bringing large numbers of junior staff from those same locations into the UK under the intra-company transfer scheme, has eliminated many opportunities for UK graduates to enter the profession.

The junior roles where graduates could gain experience and the mid-level technical roles they might aspire to are no longer available. Two years ago, IT graduates had the highest unemployment rate six months after graduation of any subject area, and many employers have severely cut or completely abandoned their graduate recruitment programmes.

Even for more experienced staff, training opportunities are rare, unemployment and chronic ageism are widespread, and salaries in most areas have been stagnant for many years. The "IT skills shortage" is largely a myth.

So by all means teach children computer science, but do not deceive them that they have a rosy future in a UK IT industry that does not want them and will throw them on the scrapheap at the first opportunity.

Chris Webster

Abergavenny, Monmouthshire

Gay Nigerian fears deportation to 'Jungle Justice'

As Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan decides whether to sign a horrific homophobic law, Uche Nnabuife, a gay Nigerian in London, waits for the opportunity to appeal the Home Office's decision to deport him to Nigeria.

Nigeria is an unsafe place to be lesbian or gay. Threats of murder regularly appear in the Nigerian press and Uche has been threatened with "Jungle Justice". The Nigerian newspaper, National Times, reported on his story on 11 April 2011 (with photograph)... "Uche Nnabuife, a gay Nigerian, has been warned not to come back to Nigeria, or his body would not be found." The Home Office says he can return safely.

Whilst the Home Office acknowledge the existence of the National Times, in their decision on Uche's claim for asylum they doubt the article's credibility, stating that it could have been fabricated or placed by supporters.

In 1990, Uche was discovered with another man in Nigeria, strung up, badly beaten, burnt and abused. After hospital treatment, his family disowned him. His claim includes the evidence of a doctor for the charity Medical Justice. The doctor who examined him wrote that, "Given the ferocity of his assault and the extent of his scars, it is understandable that he fears further persecution in Nigeria".

The Home Office accepts the report as evidence of scarring, but disregarded the expertise of the doctor, stating that Uche cannot be believed. The system is not protecting this man but is about finding fault, kicking him out and putting him through hell in the meantime.

Bryony Whitmarsh

Southsea, Hampshire

Park concerts are noisy pollution

If David Lister thinks that holding rock and Proms concerts in the centre of a densely populated city centre are a good idea ("Another fine idea soon for the chop", Arts, 31 December) then he should be awarded a pantomime prize for the ultimate in "Me, me, me" generation irresponsibility.

The prize should comprise a 10-day period of genuine residents' Hyde Park Concert Experience to be piped into his home, with distorted crowd roar, booming and wailing rock and classical music, from morning sound tests and rehearsals, through to the crescendo finale and the raucous noise of concert-goers leaving via residential areas until after midnight.

On at least one full evening, the noise will be so loud he cannot stay in his flat. For several days and evenings, his home will sway with a series of tremors that make him dizzy and nauseous. He will also be able to enjoy watching his furniture move and cracks appear in his walls. His children or grandchildren will be unable to sleep; young people will be unable to concentrate on their homework.

Any shift workers in his family will just have to resign themselves to a punishing period without proper sleep (including those with jobs requiring alert concentration, such as NHS staff).

As an additional reward for his comments on West End parking charges, this prize comes wrapped in traffic pollution, toxic fumes and toxic fine rubber particles, at a density far above levels that are safe for human health.

By no stretch of the imagination is it all right to dump these levels of noise and air pollution on city- centre residents. It is high time that venue owners, event organisers and concert-goers started to take responsibility for their behaviour, and to recognise that in such locations events have to be smaller and 15 to 20 decibels quieter than their ideal concert experience would be.

V St Clair

London W1

Beware the march of the supermarts

What a pusillanimous people Peter Ashley (letters, 27 December) must think the British have become if they can no longer cope with our "draughty, noisy, dangerous high streets".

How boring our shopping will be when it is all done through a small, probably decreasing, coterie of huge supermarket chains. Supermarket mergers will result in reduced choice, more monopolistic behaviour, and ultimately increased prices because of less competition.

The overweening power of supermarket chains over farmers and other suppliers is well-documented, and their strong lobbying over local and indeed central government comes close to subverting democratic government.

Being more "efficient" than individual traders on the high street, they will continue to extinguish the small shopkeeper, as they can sell a similar amount of goods using fewer personnel; this increases unemployment, and concentrates wealth in fewer hands, part of the baneful and unhealthy process of increasing inequality in Britain.

At a time when we hear that supermarkets are planning to expand their floorspace by 50 per cent, planning authorities should cease giving planning permission to these menacingly powerful organisations.

L Warwick-Haller


Sally Parrott (letters, 29 December) paints a very idealised picture of high-street shopping. Indeed, shopping in Cranleigh in Surrey sounds rather twee. But I wonder into what income range Cranleigh falls? For those of us living in places in the bottom five or six income deciles, that is those of us not comforted by middle-class affluence, supermarkets are essential. That is most of us.

Geoffrey Lloyd

Homfirth, West Yorkshire

Shared anger at a common cause

Jonathan Smith (letters, 2 January) says he was struck by the uncanny similarity of Richard Dawkins and Ian Paisley on television on consecutive nights during the Pope's visit, "both of them frothing at the mouth. Check out the tapes".

And frothing with some justification, some might say. This country and its taxpayers were not just welcoming but fawning over a man who is directly and personally implicated for three decades in covering up global child rape in his organisation. Anyone else with his record would be serving time.

Add to that the Pope's attitude to women, homosexuals and others whose lives he demands the right to control because of his weird beliefs, and it's no wonder decent folk everywhere were outraged.

Alistair McBay

Methven, Fife

Malcolm Pittock (letters, 2 January) asks, "Does anyone really believe that more than a tiny minority of... Christians are absolutely certain that death is the gateway to immortality?"

In the Anglican Church we all mouthed the Apostles' Creed and admitted to embracing two rather challenging truths: one, "I believe in God... and in Jesus Christ... who was conceived of the Virgin Mary", and two, "I believe in... the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting". As far as I am aware, acceptance of those truths continues to be required of all Anglicans.

Alan Wilkinson


Who merits an Order of Merit?

I was delighted to learn that David Hockney has been awarded an Order of Merit. It was also interesting to read the names of the other 23 "individuals of great achievement in the fields of arts, learning, literature, science and other areas of public service". It was not surprising to find such as Anthony Caro, Tom Stoppard, Aaron Klug and Roger Penrose in the list; but why are Prince Charles and the Duke of Edinburgh included?

Keith Tizzard

Ottery St Mary, Devon

Cub brutality

The ironic remark of Andrew McLaughlin (letters, 28 December) suggesting that a fox might as well be thrown into the kennels, he was nearer the truth than he realised. In a practice called "cubbing", cubs are thrown to the young hounds to give them a taste for the kill because they are not the natural predators of foxes.

Ailsa Dijksman

Stockton-on-Tees, Cleveland

Now you see it...

The letter from Nigel Fox (31 December) about the crafty pricing of electricity reminds me that years ago, a maker of chocolate toffees advertised its product as now having one extra sweet in its pack at no extra cost. The "new" packs were longer and contained one more sweet. But they were narrower, and lighter.

Harry Dangerfield


No effect yet

You say Nick Clegg is on the way down because "people can actually feel the effect of paying £9,000 a year in tuition fees" (2 January). No they can't; those fees have yet to start. And nobody will pay £9,000 a year, only 9 per cent of their salary to repay when they are earning £21,000 pa.

Ron Johnston


Frozen farewell

I fear there is a not uncommon confusion about Frank Hurley's Shackleton picture in the article about the Queen's Gallery exhibition (Arts, 2 January). That picture was not at Shackleton's return, but of the Elephant Island party waving off Shackleton and his five companions as they set out to fetch relief.

Roy Evans

Harpenden, Hertfordshire

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