Over 20,000 fast track work permits have been issued to overseas IT professionals since January 2000, according to figures issued by the Hone Office last week.
Junior Home Office minister Angela Eagle gave the breakdown in response to questions from Labour backbencher Paul Truswell.
Some 4,681 software engineers, 2,505 analyst programmers and 2,375 system analysts were brought into the UK over the last two years, according to the Home Office figures.
The Home Office's Information Technology, Communications and Electronics department (ITCE), which defines and updates the list of skills in shortest supply, believes more needs to be done to encourage upskilling of existing IT employees.
ITCE sector panel member and Association of Technology Staffing Companies (ATSCO) chief executive Ann Swain said her organisation shared the concerns of the Professional Contractors Group that importing talent shouldn't be a solution to getting cheaper labour.
"But there are skills shortages and this is about helping industry get the skills it needs. We don't want to make it a free-for-all but this is about serving the needs of business," Swain said.
But she warned that the Government should spend less effort trying to bring overseas IT staff into the UK, and more on encouraging industry to invest in the skills of existing staff.
"Business must not see this as a way not to train their own staff. Even if we can bring people in, it's still a sticking plaster.
"What would solve skills shortages is investment in training and the Government should, without a doubt, be doing more in this area."Swain said the abolition of IR35 was key to upskilling existing workers. "The tools of the trade for an IT contractor are training. Tax relief for IT contractors is a must if Government is serious about addressing skills shortages."
Robin Jones, education officer of the Institution of Analysts and Programmers (IAP), supported ATSCO's calls for a focus on training and the abolition of IR35.
"The issue isn't about where can you get the latest buzzword skills from, it's about maintaining an appropriately skilled workforce in the UK."
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