The Swiss IT sector is growing rapidly, increasing its workforce almost ten-fold since 2011. Despite efforts to bring in young workers, a skills shortage still persists that must partially be filled from abroad, the industry says.
Jörg Aebischer, head of the Swiss Communications and IT Association, told the media on Wednesday that businesses had so far done a good job of recruiting more apprentices to strengthen their workforces. Unexpectedly, IT companies increased their apprentice numbers by 23% since 2009.
However, he added that more needs to be done, as there are still not enough workers with specialised skill sets to meet the industry’s needs. Aebischer said that in addition to filling still more apprenticeship positions to grow the sector’s future workforce, workers would need to be recruited from outside Switzerland.
Voters' approval in Februrary of a rightwing initiative to quell the number of immigrants from the European Union could make that more difficult, although the exact consequences remain unknown.
Currently, the number of people coming into Switzerland to work in the IT sector is 5% higher the Swiss average.
Economist Nils Braun said that currently, the IT sector expects it will need an additional 14,000 workers to meet its needs through the year 2022. However, he added that depending on how the EU quotas initiative is implemented, that number could more than double beginning in 2017.
Because of how long it takes to educate someone in the sector, the IT association believes it will be impossible to educate enough well-qualified Swiss workers and will therefore continue to seek help from abroad.
The new Swiss immigration quotas are also expected to impact workers coming from outside the EU. In 2013, 1,721 employees from India were working in Switzerland, making them the largest group of workers from outside Europe. That same year, the Swiss government issued a total of 1,800 work permits to non-EU employees.
In February, a potential Swiss-Indian free trade agreement stalled due to the implementation of a new Indian government. India also abandoned a concession on special quotas for IT specialists, believing it would be severely complicated by the Swiss immigration vote.
swissinfo.ch and agencies