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Labour leader Ed Milliband demands apprenticeship requirement for government contracts

Industry veteran Richard Holway says we must close IT skills gap

In his speech to the Labour Party conference yesterday Ed Milliband said that "companies that secure government contracts will be required to offer apprenticeships to young people", which has been welcomed if it is applied to the IT industry.

Milliband's speech saw him talk of "punishing 'predators' and helping 'producers'", which led to Autonomy CEO Mike Lynch describe the speech as "motherhood and apple pie" on the Radio 4 Today programme this morning.

Lynch has been involved in the government's Innovation Launch Pad initiative which is designed to encourage more SMEs to bid for government contracts.

But Richard Holway, chairman and analyst at TechMarketView, focused on the promise of more apprenticeships and was more positive. He said, "This is something I have been banging on about to government, Intellect, the industry and anyone else willing to listen to me for several years now."

A year ago, TechMarketView did a quick survey of 20 top IT services players to the UK market and found that UK-owned firms provided the most IT entry-level jobs in the UK proportionate to their UK revenues. The India-based IT services firms provided almost no IT entry-level jobs in the UK in proportion to their UK revenue, said Holway.

Holway said, "When I suggested that the creation of IT entry level jobs in the UK should be used as one of the criteria in the awarding of government contracts - and why not private sector too? - I was told that this was 'impossible' and would break all kinds of EU and other conventions."

However, the government is currently re-thinking what local job requirements go into large government contracts, in light of large numbers of rail jobs being lost at Bombardier in Derby as a result of a train building contract going to Siemens in Germany.

"Anything that might redress the quite appalling job prospects for anyone trying to enter the IT industry in the UK should be examined closely," said Holway.

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