There has long been an IT skills gap. Global trends show increasing demand for technology skills, suggesting that the problem of recruiting good IT people is unlikely to ease soon. While in the UK, we’re seeing strong, growing demand for IT workers in most regions – for the period from January to May 2022 a ten-year high of around 870,000 vacancies were advertised in tech and digital, highlight József Boda & Michał Mysiak.

We need skilled people, but they simply aren’t available or willing to take on many of the roles we are offering. For longer-term requirements, there is always the possibility of ‘growing your own’ through routes such as apprenticeships, but for those unwilling or unable to take that path apprenticeships (and related approaches) aren’t the answer. 

Looking even further ahead, recently announced statistics reveal that for the first time since the subject was introduced in 2014, more GCSE students chose computing over physical education, perhaps that is a signal that long-term growth in the UK’s tech talent pool will be healthy. But what can we do to address tech skills shortages now – hiring new talent, either through direct recruitment or some kind of outsourcing approach is usually the simplest and most direct solution.

When the skills cannot be found locally, we need to look further afield and changes to visa schemes might help alleviate at least some of the pain of bringing in workers from abroad. The volume of skilled overseas workers coming into the market has been growing, in the year ending June 2022, visa grants for these kinds of workers increased by 96 percent (+108,794) to 222,349 compared with 2019. Of course, not all of these visas are for work in tech, but many of them are. Revisions to so-called ‘scale-up’ visas should make it simpler for employers to secure skilled overseas workers to satisfy difficult-to-fill roles and could help to ease at least some of the strain. 

When looking abroad, you do not have to look too far to find a large pool of skilled tech workers who could help solve at least part of the IT skills shortage here. Across central and parts of eastern Europe, the tech sector has been booming and so has the number of people working in the IT sector there. ‘Nearshoring’ of IT is already a major contributor to economies in the region and continues to increase in importance. As the nearshoring market in central Europe grows, more and more of its skilled workers are turning up in the workplaces of western and northern European countries. The three factors that largely explain why central Europe is a good hunting ground for skilled IT talent are: cost, culture and competence.


Compared to the UK, northern and western Europe, the cost of living in central Europe is low. This translates into, relatively speaking, lower costs and salaries for skilled workers – region. With rates for software developers ranging from 25 USD to 50 USD in the region, data from Eurostat shows that labour costs in central and eastern Europe can be as little as 40 percent of those in the largest western European economies.


Culturally, central and western Europe are relatively close and so behaviours and ways of working tend to be closely aligned. Language skills are good too, even in countries where English language proficiency is not common, tech workers stand out with high levels of English language ability, for example, 90 percent of Polish software developers have an intermediate or higher level of English proficiency. 


The quality and competence of tech professionals in central Europe are at least as good as that of their western and northern European counterparts. The region is the home of successful tech startups such as Bolt, Wise, Vinted, GitLab and Grammarly and industry studies of software development skills consistently show countries such as Poland, Romania and Hungary in the top ten.

An interesting side note on the tech market in central Europe compared to that of western and northern European countries is gender balance. For example, the proportion of women working in ICT is much higher in Romania and Bulgaria compared to the rest of Europe and the rate of growth in employment of women within the region also seems to be higher

The supply of tech professionals from central Europe is unlikely to drop in the near term and that supply is supported by both government and private sector programmes. The European Commission’s Digital Decade seeks to recruit more than twenty million ICT specialists in the next decade, while innovative training programmes from providers such as Codecool and SDA, who will train up to 20,000 technology professionals annually, are already supplying tech resources to big brands such as Accenture, Microsoft, Motorola, Morgan Stanley, Ericsson and Vodafone. 


József Boda is CEO of Codecool and Michał Mysiak is CEO of SDA (Software Development Academy).