Original URL: https://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/11/23/letters_from_sub-america/

IT bods bemoan slavery

Everyone else gets a decent wage - why shouldn't we?

By Mark Ballard

Posted in Bootnotes, 23rd November 2006 14:00 GMT

Letters There's a reason why the Australians call us whinging poms, and this bunch of letters illustrates it well.

But let's not get down on ourselves, because there's also a reason why we whinge, which is illustrated by this bag of letters - and that is that England's shit, if you are measuring quality of life by the consumerist measure. And that, afterall, is the one we use when we visit the US and Australia and come back thinking the grass is greener.

That measure makes our country look to our colonial offspring like your Grandma's drawing room used to look when you were a kid.

But those flash gits on the other side of the world, as well as those on the other side of the pond, are welcome to their big cars, big skies, big portions and big bellies, because there are enough of us in Britain who have retained some residual sense that there are other things in life.

Still, why should we who live in Rip Off Britain be paid so poorly that we can't afford to live the lifestyle we are told we should.

If you even doubt the question is relevant, as discussed originally in this article, read on...

"IT skills are still in such short supply in the UK that the country's very economic future is threatened, the head of the British Computer Society said today."

Well perhaps it wouldn't be if companies started paying living wages for the job!

When my son left university a few years ago with a 1st class honours in Software Engineering plus a load of practical "hands on" experience, he found he could actually make more money wrapping and packing at a local importers warehouse!

Although he's now managed to find himself a job in IT that pays a reasonable salary, he's had to jump through hoops to do it! And its still not enough to be able to afford a house!

And its not just IT that's at fault here. In my own profession (broadcast electronics), all the major companies are no longer interested in hiring competent engineers. All they want is someone who is cheap! Anyone who can fix a blown fuse seems to qualify these days, and as a consequence, nobody with any talent is entering the profession. No doubt others will recognise this in their own jobs, too!

Meanwhile the dozy half-wits running British Industry (or what's left of it) award themselves mega-bucks in "performance related" bonuses, when all they've usually achieved is to reduce a major asset to a bankrupt hulk. (Did I hear someone say Marconi?)

No wonder all the bright young things who should be building our future are emigrating. As replacements, The Great British Management ship in cheap labour from Eastern Europe, who after six months realise that what appeared to be an attractive salary back home, isn't even enough to pay for a soggy cardboard box in Marks & Sparks doorway over here, never mind a half decent flat!

When is this country going to wake up? It really is being run by the marketing department of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation.......... (apologies to Douglas Adams).


A Grumpy Old Git.

We couldn't have said it better ourselves, Mr Grump. Agh, but what's this, a foreigner in our midst, casting aspersions on the Great Mother Country?

Ah yes... I saw this & sagely nodded my head... Any country that teaches 'Computer Science' as a course in Excel, Word and Exchange gets what they deserve. I've worked both here & overseas and have to say that the impression I get from UK grads here is not a warm fuzzy one as far as knowledge of computing goes... Knowledge of how to get bold underlined text in word might be fine... But you can't build a computer system from that... Get the money yes... Produce something useful? No way.

That was an unsigned letter from a Kiwi, no less. Or no more, perhaps? Only kidding. We love the Kiwi sense of humour like we love the jokes our children tell us. We must express our genuine pity for you, however, for the desperate feeling of disappointment you must have felt when you got off the boat at Portsmouth to discover that the streets of the Mother Country weren't paved in gold in after all. But don't worry, you'll be looked after here, as this next letter explains.

An IT shortage??? 5 years ago, when i finished university it was almost impossible to get an IT job due to the almost obscene number of people taking the subject.

i graduated with a software engineering degree, but had to take a minimum wage data entry job in the end due to the abundance of IT graduates out there. it took 3 years of this before finally managing to get an entry level IT position. Even though, once it was realised i actually had some useful skills, i progressed at a fairly high rate.

there were at least twice the number of people studying IT at my uni than most of the other courses. although i can imagine that course take up has dropped of significantly since, due to the difficulty the previous years graduates had finding jobs.

Don't kid yourself, The main reason that the majority of companies are hiring overseas graduates is simple, on average, they are significantly cheaper for the company than having local staff. From the company i work with, we have a target of offshoring at least 3 man years of work each year, which is done by a team of 5 people costing far less, per year, than 3 more staff members would.

Our readers should know that we on The Reg take an enlightened view of our foreign brothers and sisters and welcome them all with open arms - even the Kiwis. If many of our skilled people want out, why not let some of them in? The government prefers to keep them out, as this foreign worker explains:

Just another whine on this matter. I have been working in the UK for the past year and a half, I came over on a working holiday visa, I have been working in IT for the past 10 years. I have been consulting for the past 5. My last completed large job was IT project manager for the London government doing a building move. Since then I have been keeping myself busy writing up migration strategies for other customers. What I find amusing is that with the changes to the skilled migrant visa a couple of weeks ago, I no longer qualify as I am not degree qualified. I have been working for the past 10 years, I didn't go to college. So, I will be gone shortly. With the way things are going, my next post will be with a bank in the US. I find it mildly amusing that people such as myself are being asked to leave; when from speaking to recruiters and other managers they are desperate to find people with my skill set. I await with bated breath for the Home Office to reload and shoot itself in the other foot. Berny

Berny, we wish you didn't have to go, but wish you all the luck when you get there. But spare a thought for the poor sods who are still stuck on the chain gang over here, eh? Like this one:

Well Well Well.

Sorry, but after reading the story I have to say that most of it hit the nail on the head. You can get a GCSE in ICT without ever seeing the inside of a PC now.

I know. I am a Senior ICT Technician in a school and the GCSE ICT is a joke. Might as well be an ECDL. The other problem is that people do not pay people properly in the IT world. I am paid £15k a year. I have 20+ years experience.

I am fully conversant with all Microsoft products, indeed the County Council have paid for us all to do MCSE courses, but they stopped short of paying for the examinations. I have paid for mine and am now an MCP. I love my job, but I am at the top of my pay scale and this is after a lengthy job role investigation.

I am responsible for maintaining over 300 workstations and 5 servers together with the associated infrastructure. So the county council get a really good deal!!

Pay better wages and change the syllabus for the GCSE ICT and make it more real world. The major project for the ICT GCSE has the kids using the wrong software for the job and nobody seems to want to change it.

Rant over!!

Sorry - just had to let it out!!

We understand. And your rant may not have been in vain. It may perhaps have even nudged us in the right direction, given us some idea for a way out of this poverty trap. If it's not dawned on you yet, try this one on for size.

Mark, I read your article with interest but I confess I am baffled. No doubt the facts are as reported, but in that case why are so many British IT graduates unable to find work? (I know a few myself, mostly through my children). Yesterday I happened upon the snippet that the *average* income of IT workers in the USA is just over $80K. Over the last 30 years, I have formed the distinct impression that most British managers would rather eat their own livers than pay any IT person more than £30K (about $50K?) or a third of their own salary, whichever is less. This is because of the rooted class system that dictates IT workers (like anyone else with technical knowledge, except doctors who have a powerful guild) are peasants, who must be kept "under the thumb". If the British economy must crumble because IT workers are not paid enough, then so be it: it will just have to crumble. Pity. Tom Welsh

That's the spirit. Whinging and moaning won't get you anywhere. You have to join together, rise up, take back what is rightfully yours from the grasping guvners. Either that, or join the union, or defect with the rest of them, like this last chap:

I work in software engineering and have done for about 13 years. I recently left the UK to work permanently overseas. The reasons have mostly to do with the state of the UK IT industry as a whole. There were two motivating factors: firstly, the opportunity to work on interesting things was greater abroad than in the UK. Secondly, the money's better.

My previous employer was fixated on reducing its margins and expanding its offshoring capability. The idea is to have senior people in the UK talking to the clients and devising systems architecture and to move "simple" development offshore. However, it used arguments about margin and offshoring to keep the lid on its salary costs, and so is failing to hang on to the senior technical staff that it claimed to need to keep.

Their fixation with competing in an offshore development market has led them to dilute the advantage that their long-standing reputation for technical excellence and delivery gave them. If the best technical staff leave, the reputation for technical excellence will at least start looking at its wristwatch and glancing at the door.

Now that I've moved, I realise that I should have done it earlier. My new role is more technically challenging and better paid. UK IT employers can't have it both ways; if they need skilled staff they will need to offer competitive salaries and challenging roles.

Of course it's quite possible that my case is unrepresentative, that my previous employer is atypical in its slide towards low-margin commoditised services. However, now that I have moved out of the UK, I'm pretty unlikely to move back just to check that possibility.

Don't count on it.®