Miliband will also promise to make UK-based IT firms take on a full-time British apprentice for each overseas recruit
Ed Miliband has hired former Tomorrow’s World presenter Maggie Philbin to head a new independent taskforce to review the growing IT skills gap in the UK, as the Labour leader highlights the growing dependence on overseas workers.
Miliband will make the announcement as he warns that British IT firms filling staff shortages from outside the EU, mainly the Indian subcontinent, will be required to take on a full-time British apprentice for each overseas recruit under a Labour government.
The Philbin report will be available to all political parties.
David Cameron is due to visit subcontinent this week, where there has been controversy about the coalition government’s efforts to restrict the number of skilled workers from India. Miliband is determined to highlight the skills gap in the IT sector as the prime example of Britain’s wider skills failure, which has led to British firms trawling for skills elsewhere.
On a visit to Tech City in London, Miliband will say the number of IT and digital apprenticeships in the UK has declined by a quarter over the past year at the same time as recruitment of skilled workers from outside the EU in the sector has risen.
Miliband will warn IT firms that he intends to make their industry a showcase for his call for more British apprenticeships, a subject he first pressed at the Labour conference in the autumn.
“We’ll say to big firms who want to hire skilled workers from outside the EU, you can, but you will have to offer apprenticeships too so that we equip young people in this country and businesses with the skills that they need to succeed.
“We’ll say to firms who want a government contract, you will have to have offer apprenticeships.”
Official government figures show that the number of people starting apprenticeships in information & communication technology (ICT) fell by 26% last year. Over the same period, there were 7% more tier 2 high skilled migrant visa applications, increasing to 43,485, of which the largest single group were in the ICT sector (18,304).
According to Home Office figures, 40% of tier 2 migration has been driven by demand within the ICT sector since 2010.
Miliband will argue: “IT and digital is now worth more than £100bn a year to the UK – and this figure could rise by half as much again over the next parliament, it is a key player in Britain winning the race to the top in which rising national income generates a prosperity shared by working families”
A recent report from research firm GfK, found that 77% of the businesses based in the Tech City area around Old Street in east London said the lack of skilled workers was restricting growth. It said 44% agreed that finding skilled workers is the single biggest challenge their business faces.
They cited problems including poor training courses and the general perception that all IT jobs are highly technical. Miliband has promised to let firms do more to design courses.
In India, Infosys has a large-scale training campus in Mysore, where currently 15,000 to 20,000 students attend a 23-week residential training programme each year.
Michael Gove, the education secretary, described the existing school curriculum for ICT as harmful and dull.
In the UK the demand for big data experts in large companies is expected to more than double by 2017 to 69,000, according to a study sponsored by data analytics specialists SAS.
In 2013, there were 31,000 people employed as big data specialists at firms employing more than 100 staff, and the number is set to increase by an average of 49% each year, a survey carried out by sector skills council e-skills UK found.
Questions have been raised whether the Labour government has the powers under EU law to require British firms to train British apprentices if they planned to hire a non-EU worker.