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Ballerinas and fish-gutters beat techies in UK immigration race

Gov says computer scientists not in short supply

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The UK is in dire need of ballet dancers, fish-gutters and sheep shearers - but not, it seems IT staff.

The government’s Migration Advisory Committee today published its “list of occupations for which there is a shortage of skilled workers in the UK and Scotland”, which will provide the backbone for a new points-based system for determining which non-EU citizens can come and work in the UK.

The list - which the government is not obliged to accept - details job titles and occupations that the committee has deemed “as being both skilled and in shortage and where... it is sensible to fill these shortages, at least in the short term, through immigration”.

Given the UK’s poor record in producing maths and science grads, and the government’s ambition to turn this sceptred isle into a knowledge economy, you might have expected techies to be well up the list.

And they are – at least when it comes to the traditional hard hat and white coat varieties. Civil engineers, physicists and geologists, chemical engineers and biologists are all in short supply, according to the committee. Even meteorologists are listed, as if we need to import people to tell us it’s raining.

Medical types - from doctors and nurses, through dentists, to care home assistants and vets - are also seemingly unicorn-rare in the UK’s labour force.

So far, so unexpected. But the list also highlights an apparent shortage of chefs and cooks (at least those earning more than £8.10 an hour, after deductions). And if you were worrying that the UK was falling behind in the classic dance stakes, don’t worry - “skilled ballet dancers” from outside the EU will be able to leap to the front of the queue.

And despite a rising fascination with bladed objects amongst the nation’s youth, sheep shearers and “manual filleters of frozen fish" (in Scotland) are also likely to be welcomed by the Home Office.

The prospect of a recruitment drive for bridge builders, dancers and jolly livestock coiffeurs will no doubt stun IT employers, who are seeing their wage bill rise as they compete for competent UK-based techies.

The one bright spot, perhaps, is that science and maths teachers are also on the list, meaning that those youngsters who don’t decide to chance their arm in the UK’s vibrant sheep-rearing sector might stand a slightly better chance of being technically literate by the time they get to school-leaving age. ®

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