By Tim Stone, VP Marketing EMEA at Polycom.

A shortage of talent and immigration legislation is being blamed for squashing technology growth in London. In a survey of start-ups and growing businesses, respondents reported having an average of seven vacancies they were struggling to fill. Despite the UK government’s support of projects such as Tech City, qualified technology specialists are in short supply in the UK. A recent survey from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) found that in the UK, IT and computing grew from being the second most in-demand skills area to the first. This isn’t the only survey to highlight the disparity between industry growth and the available workforce. According to European Commission figures, there will be 300,000-800,000 IT-related vacancies across Europe by 2015. In fact, the European Commission has launched a ‘grand coalition’ to address the lack in native expertise across the region. But what can be done to tackle the issue in the UK right now?

The current skills shortage in the UK has been caused by a lack of emphasis on computing degrees and qualifications. The number of students enrolling on these courses is below the number of graduates required to fill vacant positions. It will take approximately 20 years for the current drive to increase student numbers in the relevant subject areas to produce sufficient candidates for the UK technology workforce. The rest of the EU is in the same position.

The skills shortage has increased demand for IT and computing candidates, resulting in companies offering more and more financial remuneration to remain competitive in the job market. The average salary for a vacant technology role in London is now £48,307, compared to £38,274 a year ago. Great news for the in-demand applicants who can pick and choose, but a serious problem for organisations being forced to make cuts and rationalise spending due to the recession. When we look outside of the capital city, the figures change quite a lot; the national average is £38,185. If London-based companies could hire qualified applicants from anywhere in the UK they could in theory save around £10,000 per employee salary by allowing them to work remotely from their current location.

One of the main aspects of the skills shortage is the lack of qualified candidates. It can be hard for companies to find the right person who lives locally and possess all the necessary skills. In a survey about ‘The Working Day of the Future’, nearly one in five office workers indicated that they would move away from urban areas if they could work flexibly. This suggests that UK employers could recruit from a greater pool of candidates from rural areas if more employees were offered the chance to work remotely. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development found in its 2012 Reward Management Survey that flexible working was the most popular employee benefit, making roles that offer the opportunity to avoid the daily commute much more attractive to potential employees.

Research by the Department of Trade & Industry found that most female IT professionals interviewed said that they were considering leaving their jobs because they were unable to meet both work and family commitments, and that increasing the availability of flexible or remote working would be the most important step in encouraging them to stay in IT.

UK businesses are not helping the skills shortage by demanding that employees commute to and from offices. If companies enabled their employees to work from anywhere they could hire the best, most talented candidates regardless of where in the world they live. This would also reduce salary costs and ensure better quality employees.