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back to article World-leading IT expert? We'll fast-track you into Blighty, promises PM

Tech experts will be fast-tracked to receive visas for the UK – as long as they're a "world-leading talent" – Prime Minister David Cameron announced today. Top tech bods are going to be added to the "exceptional talent" visa track for "people who are internationally recognised as world leaders" in their fields, which has the …

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Oaks from acorns

The thing about importing talent is: what do you do with it, once it's here?

It appears that the government has swallowed the idea of a "magic bullet". That if you have a problem ... if nobody else can help ... that all you need is an "A team" and they'll somehow use their "world-leading talent" to sort you out.

Well, no.

Most of the problems that the UK's IT industry have are nothing to do with IT. So bringing in outsiders to give it a boost won't produce the hoped-for results. The fixes that are needed start with better technical education, move on to recognising the worth of people who can wield a soldering iron (at the right end) or spanner or stack trace, and also address the basic issues of expensive cost-of-living, unworthy management, short-sighted investors, an innovation-stifling environment and a reticence to taking risks and recognsing opportunities.

As a country, the UK is quite capable of producing its own top-quality IT people - rather than sucking the talent out of other countries. But it needs to nuture, grow and reward those people. Not just cover them in fertiliser.

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How can you "Attract" when people are leaving?

Just witness the 3'd person I did my IT with at university leave for a bigger better country, (one a senior Linux Pro for Red Hat).

Please explain why anyone would want to come to this over taxed country?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: How can you "Attract" when people are leaving?

Well, tax isn't that high in the UK, although there are a lot of stealth taxes, but that had little to do with my leaving.

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Re: How can you "Attract" when people are leaving?

and I am yet another one looking to jump on the next available plane off This Sceptred Isle...

as others have said, its nothing to do with the talent in itself, plenty of that about.. its the rest of the 'system' thats the problem.

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Please explain why anyone would want to come to this over taxed country?

To get to the US as far as I can tell. The first thing everyone from foreign climes does is start looking at how to get to the US. It seems a couple of years here gets you in.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: bigger better country

Define "better".

Over taxed? Again, you're lacking a clarification there with comparison against the "better country" (or indeed against other major industrialised countries).

It's easily possible to make a very nice living in the IT contracting industry in this country when you have the required skills. There are plenty of people coming to this "smaller, worse country" so it can't be all that bad.

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Re: How can you "Attract" when people are leaving?

They get non-domiciled status meaning this is actually a tax haven for them.

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Is it just me....

or is the following scenario the most likely outcome...

Gov bod - "So, what IT specialisation are <looks at form> Sanjay, Vikram and Vijay world experts in that justifies you bringing them into the UK and paying them nowhere near average salary the going rate?"

Big Corp. IT bod - "Erm...erm...EndoExoCryptologicalMorphologic development methodology, yes, er, that's the one, definitely..."

Gov bod - <Rubber stamps form> "That's fine then sir, it's not as if you'd lie your arse off is it sir? Carry on..."

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Pint

Re: Is it just me....

This.

Friday beer for you Sir/Madam.

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Unhappy

Here we go again....

Theres plenty of talent here.....big business just doesn't want to pay for it. Mr C wants to make his millionare mates a few more £ by undercutting the locals........again!

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To do what?

I might be interested and I am a UK citizen

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Anonymous Coward

Re: To do what?

"I might be interested and I am a UK citizen"

Are you prepared to work for below the going rate (preferably below minimum wage)?

Are you prepared to forego any legal rights granted to you under hard-fought-for employment law?

Are you prepared to lie through your teeth on behalf of your global corporate employer?

If you can answer yes to all of those, please contact Dodgy Dave's IT Recruitment and Offshoring, c/o W1A 1AA, enclosing your CV and an indication of how low you can go.

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The wages are rubbish - so is the tax

I've vaguely thought about working in the UK for a while but the offered wages are ridiculous.

In Australia I earn $125K while for the same job in the UK I can get maybe UKP40K - a serious drop. Plus I'll pay more taxes and have a dreadful climate to deal with.

The only positive thing I can think of is that the beer is slightly cheaper and so are coffees.

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Re: The wages are rubbish - so is the tax

I hate to break this news to you, but if you're only capable of earning £40K in IT in the UK, then you're probably not very good. There are some pretty poorly-skilled IT contractors out there who earn £500 a day. I know this because I've interviewed them and turned them down because they're not capable enough.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The wages are rubbish - so is the tax

contracting rates are very acceptable, and if you really have the skills then the work is there. Maybe your skills just aren't what's needed if that's all you're being offered ...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The wages are rubbish - so is the tax

I thought I had it good with my typical dailies in the £4-800 range. Spent today chatting to a Certain Big Data Analytics Outfit about bringing in some of their guys as support and they wanted that level of billing for their most junior of staff... per hour. I'm in the wrong [bit of the] business.

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Re: The wages are rubbish - so is the tax

2 things...

1. If you're any good then go contracting and that $125k Aussie salary will look like peanuts.

2. Don't forget that the Aussie salary looks good now due to the exchange rate which can go down as well as up. Around 2000-2001 the Pacific Peso was 3:1 to the Pound. That's your GBP40k right there.

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Re: The wages are rubbish - so is the tax

The cost of living is much cheaper here than in Australia. While the exchange rate for the Australian Dollar is about parity with the US Dollar, in terms of purchasing power parity, it is more like 2 Australian Dollars to the US Dollar.

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Real deal industry superstar experts are very few in number in any industry. They are also extremely mobile and don't need government assistance to go where they want. Those sorts of people rarely speculate on finding a job, their new employer makes the red tape go away. There's already a perfectly functioning system for people of that caliber.

About 98% of the time people of that caliber aren't what you need though. You need lots of 'B' students who know their jobs well enough and want to work and places that will employee them. The superstar experts are generally about as useful as tits on a boar in business. In highly technical fields they're almost more of a hindrance as they aren't capable of 'good enough' and every time they open their mouths it's going to be expensive. They're good to have if you have a very mature business with a limited market where any advantage is a big deal. But if you're depending on one technical expert to drive a business you don't have much of a scalable business anyway.

They are worthless for starting something, which is what the the UK appears to be trying to do. Starting at the end never works. Forcing business never really works anyway. If it doesn't grow organically it'll always be depending on taxpayer subsidies to survive as they depend on that established revenue.

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From working with 'superstar' experts, I'd say that they're more than worth their money. They might cost you three times as much as an average employee, but they'll give you far more than three times the value. If they're not delivering that, then they're not true 'superstars'.

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You're way, way off on the pricing differential for industry leading expertise. When you start hiring from a global pool of 10-12 people the cost differential is more like 10x+ over standard high caliber staff, plus perks and you're usually on the hook for funding their unrelated research projects too.

There are uses for the superstars no doubt, but the reason there's only a dozen or so per field is there's not a big demand for them. They are oddly shaped pegs that only fit in on top of a jumble of other, established, things.

Our lead materials engineer is the titanium guy. He was the only guy on the planet that had the skills we needed to establish ourselves as offering a truly unique service. I met him at a conference and we hit it off because we were both researching on the same path. It took over a year to convince him to come to the States and in addition to his seven figure salary we fully funded his research and he shares in licensing royalties.

We're also stuck with him. I can't let him go because he knows too much about our internal operations so he's just another cost. But we meet the mature business and limited market criteria I outlined above. Without years of work and investment beforehand he would have added nothing to the business. We are highly dependent on a few unique competitive advantages built on top of a stable business. There are 30-technical experts here who anyone would like to have on staff, but they all had to be working for years to get to the point where we needed an industry leading expert.

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Re: Real deal industry superstar experts @Don Jefe

I think you also hit the nail on the head, real superstars need to be managed. Unfortunately the manager will always be in the shade and so will only get recognition from those who are perceptive and have an inside track. By 'manager' I don't necessarily mean formal line manager but someone (or a team) who can influence the superstar to get the best out of them.

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stuck with him eh?

Well, if I understand you correctly, he has added value to your company...I would assume you would have doored him before if not.

What exactly are you trying to say? Perhaps the old argument of the eggs in the basket?

Of course you will depend on the top notch if they provide you what no others can. Should have had arrangements for knowledge transfer if you had planned ahead. I personally strive to be on top of my field (rdbms analysis), and work hard at being on top. The difference with others I have met all throughout my professional life is sometimes abysmal...there IS a difference, and to justify x3 the cost for hard to calculate benefits (which, the higher the expertise usually the higher the benefit) is, I admit difficult in the short term, but sound further down. Most times the problem is the person who evaluates this, as they themselves might not be at a level good enough to recognize potential benefits, and consequently be able to exploit them.

Here in Spain, home of retrogard IT mentalities I find this at every turn.

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Re: stuck with him eh?

You're out of your depth. It isn't a question of assessing and exploiting value, it's a question of having the infrastructure in place where you can actually take advantage of what that person has to offer. What you are talking about is skilled staff, not top echelon experts.

Knowledge transfer is the problem. When you can actually justify having top of field staff you're dealing with a tiny knowledge base, it's not the sort of thing that can be compartmentalized. They have no value if you don't have an best in class infrastructure already in place for them to utilize but that same infrastructure is unique for each competitor at that level. You're way beyond legal IP protections and far into the world of industrial secrets and the information can't be compartmentalized away, the focus is simply too narrow.

If you move into that super elite level of output and staff you have to figure in the costs of keeping those secrets long after they are a growth factor. They represent stabilized revenue, but the costs of maintaining that revenue don't decrease significantly over time as they do with more standard output.

So yes, value is added, but it's icing on a very expensive cake. If you don't already have the cake the icing alone is kind of anticlimactic.

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Re: Real deal industry superstar experts @Don Jefe

And of course the manager needs to earn more than the superstar. Because you can't earn less than somebody beneath you - that stands to reason. So you need to increase the salaries of everyone in management

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Anonymous Coward

Interesting...

"Tech experts will be fast-tracked to receive visas for the UK – as long as they're a "world-leading talent" – Prime Minister David Cameron announced today."

Were this said by Obama, you can bet that 'world-leading' "talent" would actually turn out being some poor sod just off the boat...

Sorry to sound cynical... but when you outsource and offshore your jobs, who is going to want to come to a country and face extinction?

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How much IT talent do we need?

1/ We have enough IT talent to enable the government to know everything about its citizens lives

2/ We have enough IT talent to enable its citizens to exchange their thoughts on celebrities

3/ We have enough IT talent to ensure the smooth running of our financial systems.

Well, two out of three should be good enough, shouldn't it?

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Mushroom

Dear Dave

You know we have so many imported "IT experts" the wages have dropped significantly in the UK?

Combine that with IR35 closing one man consultancies through fear and uncertainty.

Only hiring large bodyshops stuffed with offshore and imported labour for government contracts.

Selling off every organisation to foreign buyers who then offshore IT.

So not sure what these experts are going to do except work in Starbucks?

Anyway if they are any good why would they start an IT business in the UK, you would be better off in Eastern Europe.

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Anonymous Coward

IR35 closing one man consultancies through fear and uncertainty

Nobody I know has closed due to that badly thought out (Labour) policy. In fact the revenue has had zero prosecution success, and everyone I know signs off their contract as being "outside IR35". That said, get rid of it and simplify the whole procedure.

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Re: IR35 closing one man consultancies through fear and uncertainty

You might want to check out what "Umbrella Companies" do for a living. Check the Annals of the PCG for cases they lost and talk to a few ex contractors. Oh look a handy list and look the Tories were going to abolish it.

http://www.contractorcalculator.co.uk/ir35_history.aspx

It was part of my decision to close, shortly after a bunch of nice ICT chaps turned up at 30% of the cost we were. (We weren't actually charging a lot, much less than a backbencher's salary).

Of course despite being a tax avoider I was still paying more tax than the ICT chaps were earning.

So now you know someone!

IR35 - It's not the tax, its the uncertainty.

The VISAs were another problem which of course force down the tax take.

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I just started my own IT services company and had to endure the hour chat with the business bank manager to get a bank account. (Barclays free banking for a year (only reason) )

He was polish and spent most of the time telling me I should outsource all my coding work to his mates in Eastern Europe as they are cheaper and would do a better job.

Much as I admire their apparent go getting style, I found the whole thing quite offensive to be honest, that somehow nobody in the UK would be able to do the work to a high standard.

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Re: I just started my own IT services company

Sold by the year's free banking, personally better option would of been to join the FSB and then get free business banking for as long as you're a member, plus free access to lots of experienced business bods...

PS word of advice NEVER business bank with the same bank as your private account, with small business'es banks don't tend to see the distinction between the two particularly when business account is overdrawn and there is money in your personal account...

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Stop

"people who are internationally recognised as world leaders"

Why would anyone like that want to come here?

It doesn't matter how talented you are - UK Ltd has lost any idea it ever had of how to use the talent it has in abundance. Any world leader foolish enough to come here thinking he/she can make a difference would be delusional.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "people who are internationally recognised as world leaders"

It doesn't matter how talented you are - UK Ltd has lost any idea it ever had of how to use the talent it has in abundance.

We never lost it, we never had it. That's why so many of the technologies invented by Brits ended up being developed overseas. It's been going on for generations now. Sooner or later the government will catch on but they won't be able to do anything about it, because they are unable to recognise 'good ideas', they always have been.

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Re: "people who are internationally recognised as world leaders"

We never lost it, we never had it.

True. I realised that some time ago but consoled myself with the thought that we were at least gifting technologies to the world.

My gripe now is that we can't even develop at that initial level, a level at which we would at least in the past have nurtured the people who could produce worthwhile ideas and products.

So much waste of potential now. Not just of people discarded because they are chronologically challenged, but also of the following generations, who are tragically unaware of what they could have done.

What a waste.

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We need a change of mind in society

We need to come back to realizing how important skilled technical people are and how damaging greedy economists can be to the society.

Look at the 1980s, there literally was a TV series praising the skills of a hacker. This inspired quite a lot of people, including me, to go into engineering. Then there were great educational shows like the "Curiosity Show" (now largely on Youtube) bringing science and engineering to children in an entertaining and accessible way.

We need to learn from the Sputnik shock. We need to learn how much education can bring to a society, and we need that we should get our money into schools not banks.

I fear that the ship has sailed for the UK. While in Germany there is still some engineering and manufacturing (though German exports have recently been even surpassed by some Asian country) the UK seems to be dominated by the financial sector.

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Anonymous Coward

Not a bad idea, but not a magic bullet either

David Cameron's remit, as PM, is to grow the UK economy. So from that angle I have no problem with him inviting top talent to live and work in the UK, just like the UK would for a leading research scientist. The US has a system like this (the O1A visa, IIRC) and it works very well (and the standard is extremely high: this is *not* a backdoor for the underpaid IT contractor to get in. More like a system for people who have been on the cover of Time to get in. In fact, recognised global acclaim is one of the criteria.)

Having said that, top talent is fought over by employers and countries alike. So getting your superstar into your country is only a small part of the story. The bigger question is whether the environment they come in to helps. Are their good schools for their kids to go to? Is there a health care system? Is there ready access to sources of capital, not just money but land, people and machinery? Is the market fair and does it protect property? Will their success be celebrated, or sniped at (superstars have egos after all)? Are their cultural barriers (for example if the superstar would be in an ethnic or linguistic minority group within the host country)?

No one country scores highly in all categories, but the US, for all its faults, beats all the other major economies of the world hands down. I'm no superstar, but I left the UK for the US a decade ago, and it has been game-changing in terms of the opportunities I've had.

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Re: Not a bad idea, but not a magic bullet either

> this is *not* a backdoor for the underpaid IT contractor to get in.

If you believe that I have a bridge, a Dixon's extended warranty and an HP storage solution to sell you.

Dave's mates in the city (who write the policies for him) are not concerned that ARM can't hire the best chip designers from MIT or Stanford.

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After all their rhetoric about eastern european workers

Is this a Reverse of their Polish Notation?

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Anonymous Coward

hahaha

I'm not being funny, but by all reasonable measures I *am* a "world-leading IT expert" and one of the reasons I left the UK to begin with was the lack of opportunities to demonstrate said talents in an environment where capital, greed, duplicity, politics, old-boys networks and risk aversion dominate.

The others related to home prices, tax, criminality, traffic, ignorance, road rage, lack of natural resources, ruined manufacturing base.. the list goes on. I moved abroad and frankly haven't looked back.

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