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May 18, 2015

TechUK hails Tory victory, but migration still a problem

Pro-business message is popular, but skills shortage needs addressing.

By Jimmy Nicholls

The trade group techUK has offered muted praise at the return of the Conservative government in the general election, amid longstanding fears over the party’s stance on migration.

Speaking to CBR, the deputy CEO Antony Walker noted that the "pro-business, pro-entrepreneurship message" of the Tory campaign would be a source of encouragement for the British technology sector.

In particular he welcomed Help to Grow, a £1bn scheme which will see the government underwrite loans and co-invest in British start-ups, the continuation of research and development tax credits.

However techUK also raised concerns over the Conservative plans for reducing net migration, which has been one of the most controversial issues over the course of the last parliament.

"We have long called for the development of a smart migration policy that enables the tech sector to continue to grow and create high skilled jobs," Walker said.

"Only by attracting the best talent can the government deliver on its manifesto pledge to make the UK the technology centre of Europe.

"Sending a positive message to international talent, which fulfils the needs of UK firms, will be crucial – not only in alleviating immediate shortages, but also in securing the long term economic benefits that result from high-value technology jobs."

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The Conservatives have been under pressure to reduce net migration, pledging to reduce it to "tens of thousands" in their manifesto before the general election, despite failing in the past to reduce it to the less ambitious target of 100,000 a year.

However techUK have requested that the government add more digital roles to the shortage occupation list, which reduces the barriers to recruiting workers from abroad and has been recommended by the Migration Advisory Committee, an independent public body.

"The tech industry would take confidence from a positive response from Government in making it easier for start-ups and scale-ups to recruit Developers, Cyber Specialists and Big Data Analysts through their inclusion on the SOL," Walker said.

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