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Budget 2014: big data and apprenticeships get Osborne’s vote

Alex Scroxton

Chancellor George Osborne has delivered the 2014 Budget, upgrading forecast growth for this year by 0.3 of a percentage point, and announcing a raft of measures to help businesses, including help with energy costs and incentives for investment abroad.

For the IT crowd there was good news in a number of areas Osborne announced funding for a new Alan Turing Institute to “ensure Britain leads the way in the use of big data and algorithm research.”

Osborne also had plenty to say regarding the skills crisis affecting the industry, announcing new grants for 100,000 apprenticeships, and the creation of more graduate-level apprenticeships.

British Chambers of Commerce director general John Longworth said: “With a huge confidence gap still separating employers from young job-seekers, we are very pleased to see the Chancellor heed our call to help firms take on and train tomorrow’s workforce.

“Overcoming that confidence gap means more investment in young people, more apprenticeships, and more jobs, which are critical with more than 900,000 16-to-24-year-olds still out of work.

“Osborne’s focus on investment, exports, house-building and economic resilience passes the business test. By making a better business environment his top priority, the Chancellor has recognised that successful and confident companies are the key to transforming Britain’s growing economic recovery into one that is felt in homes and on high streets.”

CompTIA Western Europe director Graham Hunter welcomed Osborne’s focus on apprenticeships, saying they were vital for filling the IT gap.

“However places available are not the same as places filled, and low awareness of both sides of the potential of apprenticeships remains a problem. We would like to see a greater push to employers and students to communicate the value and respectability of these apprenticeships,” he pointed out.

Hunter also welcomed increased support for exporters and the doubling of the investment allowance to £500,000, reducing taxes for businesses investing in equipment, which includes IT infrastructure.

“This should make it easier for Britain’s IT departments and SMEs to invest in IT infrastructure to grow their businesses,” said Hunter. “Furthermore, IT companies selling such equipment can use this as a powerful sales tool to encourage their customers that this is the time to invest in growth.”

Gary Calcott, technical product manager at Progress Software said Osborne needed to do more to guarantee he was backing himself up by putting programmes in place to follow through.

“I’d have liked to have seen him providing resources that will ensure children of all ages are given ‘hands on’ access to ‘ease of use’ technology that can stimulate their interest in science and technology,” he said.

"For example, giving students the ability to build an application by using a simple ‘drag and drop’ interface is a great way of introducing them to the world of programming, without bogging them down in the complexity of having to learn a new programming language. It could even provide the foundation for Britain to produce a wealth of world-class developers that can help to boost this country’s position as a European innovation hub for years to come.”


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