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back to article Cameron's Tech City: Desks? Yes. Cash? Yes. Coders? Nope

Lack of skilled staff is hampering the growth of almost half of all tech businesses based around East London's Silicon Roundabout, a survey has found. Research firm GfK asked top-ranking staff from than a hundred companies based within Shoreditch's Tech City cluster about the problems faced by their businesses. 77 per cent of …

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Same thing at GDS

Lots of people who know about fonts and how to use crayons........but coding, application use, common sense - complete lacking.

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Re: Same thing at GDS

Jeez, any excuse for slagging off poor old GDS.

Upvoted!

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There's no such thing as a lack of skilled workers. There's only a shortage at a given price. In other words they just aren't paying enough. Shoreditch's start-ups have to compete for talent, and they're up against the City's well-paid financial sector next door. I've never heard a City bank complain of a shortage of developers.

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Devil

EC1 ~ £600pd, E1 ~ £???

I've got a horrible suspicion that Techy City-ists see coders in the same way the Victorians saw navvies.

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Re: EC1 ~ £600pd, E1 ~ £??? @Buzzword

Actually, there is such a thing as a lack or skilled workers. You pay more, then a skilled worker moves to your place. But he leaves a gap where he left, which needs to be filed with another skilled worker.

If there are fewer skilled workers than jobs, the amount paid is irrelevant to making up that shortfall in the short or medium term.

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Anonymous Coward

This is most definitely the case. Even aside from the City, you've got top-line consultancy and services companies (you know - the business sectors the UK actually excels in) offering new graduates £30k right out of the door, with big chunky golden hellos and tax free loans and stellar career opportunities within genuinely global businesses working with clients drawn exclusively from the world's headline stock exchanges.

Why would a first class graduate ever settle for the £22k some Shoreditch startup is offering them in that case?

Similarly, why would an experienced professional take the risk of having an absolute black hole on their CV from working for yet-another-music-streaming-startup?

There is a skills shortage in the UK, but the problem at the "silicon roundabout" is they're expecting to get staff on Newcastle wages in London Zone 1. The spads behind this branding exercise forget one of the reasons Silicon Valley was so successful was land, offices and living were all very, very cheap.

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Why would a first class graduate ever settle for the £22k....?

The only way would be if he/she felt like a valued employee, had a share of the equity and/or got something else that working for your own startup traditionally is supposed to offer over working for a big company.

Suspect that many of the real life Lord Bongs might have different ideas on how to treat the people who merely "implement" their "vision".

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Re: EC1 ~ £600pd, E1 ~ £??? @Buzzword

You're assuming that the supply of skilled workers is fixed - when in fact we have a highly flexible labour force and we can import workers from the rest of Europe. If salaries in Shoreditch aren't enough even to attract an unemployed Spaniard or Greek, then they're definitely not paying enough.

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Agreed, Silicon Valley is not in Washington or even New York. When it started it was in a nice place to live. Not true any more but it now has the brand.

I live in beautiful Somerset and there is no money that would make me move to London. I'll contract there but the closer to London the higher the price to compensate for commute time and hotel costs. Currently in Borehamwood and working from home on Monday and Friday so it's bearable

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Of course there's such a thing as a lack of skilled workers in certain fields. Always has been. There will never be a match between supply and demand, especially when the skills required are so fluid. Back in my day employers were expected to TRAIN their employees, instead of moaning to that ferret-faced Secretary of State for Education that schools ought to be doing it all for them.

If you're not prepared to train them then you've no option other than to offer big bucks.

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> there is no money that would make me move to London.

Same here, top of my job search criteria is "Location: not London".

It's an expensive and unpleasant place.

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Buzzword is bang on the, err, money.

When I graduated last year, at my riper-than-usual age for a grad - 29, I couldn't accept jobs for the pay offered in the start-ups in Shoreditch. I had to wait 6 months for my dev job with a decent salary, and thankfully got one in the end, but not in the Silicon Roundabout area

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Of course there's such a thing as a lack of skilled workers in certain fields. Always has been. There will never be an exact match between supply and demand, especially when the skills required are so fluid. Back in my day employers were expected to TRAIN their employees, instead of moaning to that ferret-faced Secretary of State for Education that schools ought to be doing it all for them.

If you're not prepared to train then you've no option other than to offer big bucks.

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Holmes

There is no money that would make me move to the UK...

To be honest, I moved to Switzerland with my wife (after spending 7-8 years in Germany) - and although I frequently get agents calling me up, wanting to make use of my C/C++/assembler skills for an exciting new project in London, I always end up having to tell the children that Santa Claus doesn't exist when I say "Sorry, I'm not available for UK work."

For one thing, I don't want to move there - and neither does my wife. I don't know how to put it across gently to the CEO-types, but people of a certain level of experience tend to get married and develop expectations in line with their abilities. At a certain point, you give up living in a hotel room 500km+ apart from your partner (and seeing your partner only on weekends) - and decide that a work/life balance in favour of life is more important. If you are asking for people of a high level of ability (and experience) to work for you in one of the least desirable (and least spouse-friendly) places to live in the Western world, you shouldn't be surprised if the response is anything less than deafening.

Silicon Valley was successful because PEOPLE ACTUALLY WANT TO LIVE THERE. There's lots of sun, sand and sea to be had, and an excellent Californian culture. I don't know of anyone who seriously wants to live in London for reasons other than the fact that their work happens to be based there. Even when I was still living in the UK, I drew the line at the South East: London was that place I wanted to avoid living or working at all costs. Having spent the last 9 years outside the UK, I've come to the conclusion that the grass is still most definitely greener here.

If the CEOs in London want to attract more coding talent, I suggest they set up offices in Zürich, Basel, Bern, Düsseldorf, München, Berlin and Wien. People actually move there by choice, to escape places like London! They may also have to adjust their salary expectations, given the competition is paying rates like 120'000 CHF here in Switzerland - and talented coders in Germany and Austria are (given their proximity to Switzerland) seldom poor.

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Boreham Wood - bearable?

Geography meets nominative determinism.

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Megaphone

tax free loans

TAX AVOIDANCE ALERT! TAX AVOIDANCE ALERT!

Quick. Somebody call Peggy Hodge and her enterage of the economically clueless. These magic roundabout companies are "doing evil" and must be stopped.

TAX AVOIDANCE ALERT!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: tax free loans

@ Shagbag:

Hahah, I noticed that slip as soon as I'd posted it. Obviously meant to read interest-free loans. £5-10,000 to relocate to London, zero interest and an extremely flexible repayment schedule is not uncommon if you're taking up a job with one of the big consultancy/services firms.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: EC1 ~ £600pd, E1 ~ £??? @Buzzword

Quote: "when in fact we have a highly flexible labour force and we can import workers from the rest of Europe".

What in particular makes you think that an experienced Czech (most german companies develop there), Bulgarian (Vmware, HP, IBM, etc) or Romanian (Amazon) coder will forfeit his 40k+ Eu paycheck to move to a 27k £ paycheck in a startup in London.

Is it the cost of life (only 2-3 times higher)? Is it the wonderful working environment (I sometimes treat the Office as a documentary)? Or the opportunity to become the resident Lord Bong's right hand (yeah, like it will happen)?

Dream on. The only thing we can import, import presently and will import from the rest of Europe are the poor guys that wash your Audi regardless of the weather in the supermarket parking lot. The import bonanza is _OVER_. The companies which have moved _OUT_ of India (Vmware is quite open and frank about why they moved software development from India to Bulgaria) have moved into Eastern Europe and are paying 40-80k Eu _THERE_. At the living standard there it is the same as getting 200k in London. Yeah, right, like any of these people are going to move. Bollocks...

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Anonymous Coward

get real!

Strangely in this brave new world all of them have an approach from the Dickensian world of Scrooge and Marley. They can only see a person is working by having a bod on a seat they can see.

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Anonymous Coward

Where are testers on that list?

What would they come under?

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Re: Where are testers on that list?

"Users"..

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Coffee/keyboard

Re: Where are testers on that list?

Companies don't value testers the same way as they do developers, specially in the new and shiny "Agile" world where you only need a couple of developers and someone with some photoshop experience, and you'll have the newest killer app, it's such a naieve way of looking at things. I have been trying to find a decent test manager for months and am struggling to wade through the endless dross that keeps on being put forward. It would be refreshing to see the startups in this area redefining the software development paradigm and really changing the way that things are done.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Where are testers on that list?

Ahh, Agile. Bunch of idiots going round in circles because they lack a fucking clue about process.

Testing: The market for testers isn't bad, but it's a simple fact it will always earn less than actual development (I say that as a former developer, back when Delphi was still trendy, who now tests). The advantage of the job is that a lot of the skills are innate. If you're able to read a turgid set of requirements (or better still, communicate effectively in the absence of requirements) and draw a picture of what (and who) you're meant to be testing from these (like old systems analysis), then you're greater than fifty percent of the way there.

That's not to say there are no hard skills. Strong UNIX/LINUX and database skills go a long way, and it helps to keep an eye on current automation technologies. But overall, the job isn't as fad driven as development.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Where are testers on that list?

Users.....

Sadly, for the denizens of Bullshit Circle that is probably all too true. And doubtless a similar attitude to performance testing: Go live and pray!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Where are testers on that list?

Decent test manager you say? I may have just the man for you.

Where's the job?

Is ther a way of PMing you?

(Anon as I don't want my friend knowing I'm pimping him out.)

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Anonymous Coward

Also consider

The cost for uni leavers to live anywhere near shoreditch for less than £350 per week rent, even a flatshare

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Re: Also consider

Then again, a couple of months ago I visited some friends who live in Mountain View (one works in tech, the other at Stamford) and the rent is similarly crazy in what (at first) looks like a much more suburban area. When you factor in the telephone number healthcare costs (given that you're fired at will and insurance won't cover an awful lot of stuff, they've also been cautious and set aside a big wedge for unexpected crises in this area) and surprisingly similar overall tax rate, the cost o' living as a function of the salary isn't all that different.

Not saying that the rent isn't too damn high (as a Londoner, I can assure you that it is), just saying that Silicon Valley (if that's who we're trying to benchmark against) seems to have exactly the same problem.

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Alert

Why an I not surprised?

Techies are notoriously bad at selling themselves well.

I look at these figures and I see that the sales and marketing types have found it relatively easy to blag their way into a job, but the recruiters haven't taken a shine to the people who applied for the research, development, and coding roles.

I'd say that the problem is that the recruiters don't understand the people they're recruiting well enough, and that they should learn to be better at rejecting affable but useless sales people as well as better at recognizing the valuable skills offered by slightly socially inept techies.

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Re: Why an I not surprised?

My experience is more that recruiters don't understand anything at all. They neither understand the job nor the people and just randomly match and mix. Besides in my experience companies which outsource their recruiting obviously don't care about the people they get, otherwise they'd do recruiting themselves.

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Pay for what you get

You want slaves with the skills go to India

You want people to come to the arse end of nowhere every day its going to cost you.

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FAIL

London centric obsessing

What happens when you put all your jobs competing for the same people in a place where it's vastly too expensive and not that nice to live - this is why places like Cambridge, Manchester or Edinburgh do all the real heavy lifting. Of course that doesn't fit with the London centric obsession of politicians.

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Thumb Up

Re: London centric obsessing

What he said.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: London centric obsessing

Why, given this day and age, and especially given that techies are best placed to leverage telecommuting, is geographical location an issue at all.

Why not place your office in Brum (saving a fortune in property) and get people to dial in?

One of my companies subsidiaries has become an industry recognised centre of excellence by providing a system for expert resources to work remotely. They don't come to us. We go to them.

I reckon it's a shadowy cabal of coffee shops who are terrified of losing their trade from stations and airports .....

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Re: London centric obsessing

Indeed. In some ways, the last thing the UK needs is another industry firmly rooted within the North Circular.

OK, you're closer to the banks and the venture capitalists, but presumably they can afford to get on a train. Cambridge, Manchester and Edinburgh have much more space and (especially for Manchester) much more of a need for Westminster to take an interest in somewhere outside the South East for once.

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Happy

Re: London centric obsessing

I tele-commuted across 2,700km every day for 3.5.years.

Apart from a few flights over for the xmas party, I never saw the people at base office.

Worked very well.

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Re: London centric obsessing

Totally agree - If they moved location to somewhere else they wouldn't have this problem.

Based on rail links and the like a great location would be Doncaster. Although it's not everyone's cup of tea!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: London centric obsessing

"Why not place your office in Brum (saving a fortune in property)..."

Largely because commericial space in Birmingham isn't that much cheaper and it's largely a shit hole. Speaking from a decade of experience living in the city...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: London centric obsessing

But then... then you would have to live in the North! (of London that is)

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Anonymous Coward

"Brum is a shithole" sooooooo boring

Yes, let's have all the jokes about <insert provincial town/city> being a shithole.

1) Is London *really* that much better ?

2) Maybe the reason they are shitholes is because firms insist on having head offices in London. By all means have a presence in London. But not the whole shooting match.

FWIW I live in Brum, and enjoy being 15 minutes drive from the city centre one way, and 15 minutes from some stunning Worcestershire countryside the other.

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Stop

Re: London centric obsessing

"Why not place your office in Brum"...

Shhh, don't tell them that! We don't want Shoreditch twats and 'social media consultants' moving up here, FFS.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "Brum is a shithole" sooooooo boring

"1) Is London *really* that much better ?"

Unequivocally, yes! I mean that in no small way. My quality of life is significantly better here than it ever was in 10 years of Birmingham. FWIW I lived in Harborne.

"2) Maybe the reason they are shitholes is because firms insist on having head offices in London. By all means have a presence in London. But not the whole shooting match."

Transport infrastructure is good and London is where the real money is. The transport in the West Midlands, for what is supposedly the second city, is atrocious. I'm glad that New St is being renovated as, along withthe Pallasades, was a sould destroying place. London is also a great place to live.

I don't disagree that there is some stunning countryside around Birmingham, but where I live (Wimbledon FTR), I'm 30 minutes from the coast, and not more that 20 from some pretty tidy country side too. In 30 minutes I can be in the heart of one of the most vibrant cities on the face of the earth, that is *truly* multicultural.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: London centric obsessing

"We don't want Shoreditch twats and 'social media consultants' moving up here, FFS." Of course you wouldn't. They'd displace the Redditch twats and 'recruitment consultants' that the city is full of...

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FAIL

Re: They forgot the predicate

"They are hard to recruit when engineers are under paid compared to accountants, lawyers, bankers, doctors (arguably), Union staff and other professions."

Cobblers. In IT there's a huge range between the top skilled contractors on the peachiest gigs, and the lowest paid wage slaves working for cr@p companies in poor conditions. And that's the case in all the examples you name. Take lawyers, they're all loaded aren't they? Well, no actually. If you're talking about a partner at Slaughter & May we're talking telephone numbers. But if you're a provincial barrister then you'd be hugely skilled, and still perhaps only earning £40k a year. Things are worse for mere solicitors - my next door neighbour earns less than I do and he's mananging partner of a small regional law firm. Accountants, yeah. I work with enough of 'em to know that they earn less than the IT bods of my organisation in very rough terms. Bankers, same again - City investment bankers might be driving Ferraris, most of the industry doesn't. Doctors, same again, with rubbish hours, decades of training, and just a handful earning fat salaries - GP's are certainly on an undeservedly cushy number, but you go and work a Saturday night in A&E as an SHO, and tell me the pay's good.

Of course, if you're right that they are all over-paid, then reskill and go fill your boots. There's some round here might contribute to your El Reg forums leaving gift.

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Trollface

Re: They forgot the predicate

"only earning £40k a year"

Sucks to be them eh?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: They forgot the predicate

"you go and work a Saturday night in A&E"

I've tried it as a patient or carer several times in two different hospitals in different parts of the country in the last few years. Have you?

The SHOs might well be doing a decent job, the invisible senior managers aka spreadsheet jockeys could benefit from being forcibly introduced to few realities.

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Re: They forgot the predicate

""only earning £40k a year"

Sucks to be them eh?"

Most certainly does. Not only would you need exceptional academic qualifications from your first degree (in law), you then need to do a conversion course, followed by a vocational training course specific to barristery (no, they don't call it that), then they have to secure pupillage (ie learning on the job with a barrister's chambers), and then they need to secure a "tenancy" at a chambers. The drop out rate at each stage is high, with less than a quarter of those who pay for their vocational training securing a tenancy. I'm no lawyer, so it's no skin off my nose, but ask yourself if you'd spend a year of your life (plus course fees, living costs, foregone earnings) for a 50% chance of securing a training contract, which then pays about £20k for a year, but also has a 50% chance that you won't be able to secure a job at the end of it. If all goes well then you unless you're a top flight London barrister then you will be earning £30k-£50k. And you've got to pay expenses, because as a barrister, even in chambers, you're effectively self employed, so have to pay your share of the support staff, and whatever you get paid is only as secure as the next self employed man's income. There's a few households get that much from the "benefits" system.

Going back to Eadon's comment. The other man's grass is always greener. It's only when you stand on it you see the dog eggs, leatherjacket damage, ryegrass clumps, bald patches and moss.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: They forgot the predicate

"Sucks to be them eh?"

Most certainly does."

Then in the presence of all that bad stuff in legal careers, surely there'd not be much competition for law places at university etc because the subject is dead boring and the career is crap? Y'know, in the same way as there's not much competition for most science courses 'cost although the subject is fascinating, the UK wages of science are crap.

No? Thought not.

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Anonymous Coward

You wouldn't get me anywhere near that poluted sh*hole called London, whatever the money

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Anonymous Coward

But other polluted shitoles are OK? You provincial really need to get you heads out of your arses...

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