With The Economist in Brazil this week focused on where Brazil is heading in the next decade, IT Decisions is commenting on a series of points raised during discussions in our LinkedIn forum. This chapter of our report State of Brazil IT looks at the current issues around the skills of the country’s technology workforce.
Brazil is booming, and hi-tech Brazil is booming even more. With companies eager to hire and not finding enough expertise locally, it might be presumed that the Brazilian authorities would be welcoming skilled migrants. Wrong.
According to a recent article in Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo, Brazil has only granted 56,006 work visas in 2010. That compares with 586,000 visas granted in the UK, 482,052 in the US and 223,000 permits to work granted by China during the year.
Many skilled individuals are put off by visa applications that can take several months to be processed, despite the allure of a country that worships football, the beach, and has strong economic growth. Contrast the Brazilian economy with the UK, where growth of 0.5% is now lauded as respectable.
The reasons for such long delays in processing visas include a lack of online automation for many procedures, including the several items of documentation foreigners often have to provide, and the fact that applications are forwarded to government departments in Brasilia for analysis.
IT Decisions‘ chief executive Mark Hillary had his own problems earlier this year when applying to come and live in Brazil. Having a graduate degree in business and chartered information technology professional status plus being married to a Brazilian citizen didn’t help him much at all. He still needed to produce reams of paperwork and visit the police in person many times to prove his legitimacy.
Brazil needs more highly-skilled IT people. Just look at what the CIO of Drogaria Onofre told IT Decisions recently: “The scarcity of qualified professionals in Brazil is extremely high. It took me about six months to hire a network administrator.”
And we keep hearing this message over and over again when we talk to IT leaders in Brazil.
Luis Ricardo Almeida, the CIO of insurance giant Chubb, explained: “There is a lot of opportunities around and it strikes me as strange that people might say that we have an IT skills gap – what we have is a lack of people that are good at the job. You can notice that even on the supplier side, you have to ask to change the people working on projects, consultants change firms all the time. It is very difficult to operate in this market – and I feel it everyday.”
According to the Brazilian Agency for Promotion and Export of Software (Softex), the Brazilian IT sector currently employs 600,000 people. However, the organization’s numbers suggest that there was a shortage of about 75,000 skilled professionals in 2010 and that deficit is expected to reach to 92,000 in 2011 and 200,000 by 2013.
When IT Decisions attended the World Economic Forum on Latin America this year, a major area of discussion and concern was that the skills gap in Brazil could even threaten or harm the potential growth – it’s that serious.
So what is the government doing to try dealing with this issue?
Despite being perceived as a less important issue in more developed countries that also suffer of scarcity of qualified IT professionals, the matter in Brazil seems to have finally reached the top of the government’s agenda. Skills development in sci-tech is one of the pillars of Brasil Maior, a three-year development plan.
Brasil Maior includes three flagship programs for vocational and technical education to stimulate engineering are part of the strategy: the National Program for Access to Technical Schools (Pronatec), the National Pro-Engineering Plan, and the Science without Borders program.
The two most relevant programs for IT are: Pronatec, which will offer 3.5 million scholarships to equip people with expertise for the market while upskilling individuals who are already in the workforce and Science without Borders, which is offering 100,000 scholarships for exchange students, from high school children up to post-doctoral researchers. The federal government will meet the cost of 75% of the scholarships with private sector support for the remainder.
Additionally, the National Service for Industrial Training (Senai, in the Portuguese acronym) will start a program of expansion and construction of research and training centers to meet the needs of the domestic industry, with support of the federal government.
Earlier this year, the IT policy secretary at the Ministry of Science and Technology Virgilio Almeida told IT Decisions that the government was looking into offering web-based training at the Technological Vocational Centers across the country around areas such as programming and games development in what would be a “mass-training initiative to cover an enormous amount of people.”
Almeida also said that the government was also looking into extend the creation of multidisciplinary courses at universities that could allow students to get trained in different areas such as art, social science, music and others, but with technology as a base.
The only problem for Brazil is that the need is now. Auditing existing skills, improving education, sending people on overseas scholarships all takes time. Brazil needs to welcome some more foreign IT experts into the mix if the industry is not going to be choked of skilled professionals just as it has the opportunity to beat the world.
Photo by Yasunari Nakamura licensed under Creative Commons