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Xenophobia holds back technology companies

By Graeme Kennedy

Friday 14th April 2000

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Companies should forget their xenophobic attitudes and hire qualified staff from non-western countries to overcome a chronic shortage of IT specialists, Morgan and Banks Technology general manager Stuart Bennett warns.

Universities are producing only 25% to 30% of the graduates with IT-related degrees the industry needs; only 1002 came on the market in 1998 when between 3000 and 4000 "would have been a healthy number," he said.

"Firms are being held back by the shortage," Mr Bennett said. "They can't grow or expand without the right resources and in some cases are putting themselves at risk by turning their backs on skilled people from overseas.

"There is reluctance to consider them purely because they come from non-Western countries."

Mr Bennett said the US took 65000 qualified IT specialists a year from India while other major sources included Asia, Brazil and Eastern European countries such as the Ukraine and Poland.

"But here the lines of resistance go up and companies say foreign recruits lack local experience and would have difficulty managing New Zealand staff," he said. "Such xenophobic attitudes and an unwillingness to look around the world for specialist IT staff mean that opportunities for growth are being lost.

"If a Russian was interviewed face-to face, he had the qualifications and showed he knew what it was all about he'd probably get the job, but New Zealand companies don't seem to have faith in organisations like ours to be able to deliver staff to them from overseas. We have considerable expertise in international recruitment and we know there are suitable IT specialists who are being rejected here because firms are not comfortable with people from foreign countries."

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