A HUGE shortage in IT and cyber security experts in the region has prompted a specialist recruitment agency to open a new office in Southampton.

Viqu, which launched in Birmingham in 2014, has now opened a branch in Ocean Village.

Managing director Matt Collingwood explained that the company had researched the area carefully before coming to the south coast.

"Collectively, there are 80,000 employers in the Hampshire Economic Area with 820,000 employee jobs and a £41bn annual value of economic output," he said.

"Between 2006 and 2026, around 90,000 additional jobs will have been created, of which three-quarters of these will be in business services (including IT & Cyber), public administration or leisure and tourism.

"However, the Hampshire Chamber of Commerce has reported the skills shortage in the region has reached critical levels. Of the IT & Cyber employers hiring, the percentage of companies reporting recruitment difficulties has risen to 71 per cent, the highest since records began."

Matt said Hampshire was an attractive area in which to work which put it in a strong position when it came to recruiting.

"VIQU’s approach is to positively promote the benefits of living in Hampshire, the improved quality of life, good schooling, low crime figures and earnings that are one third higher than the UK average," he said.

The shortage of homegrown talent has meant that Viqu has gone abroad to find IT and cyber recruits and has forged strong links with Vietnam and the Philippines.

Matt said he believed the government would have to relax legislation surrounding the number of visas issued to skilled professionals entering the UK.

Currently there are only1,500 Tier 2 Visa issued per month and the demand for them is double that.

However, in the long term Mat said he believed more companies would be running their own training schemes, often bypassing universities and taking teenager straight from school, to produce the IT staff needed.

Viqu's new office in is managed by Vinay Sonchatla who has 13 years' experience in IT and Cyber recruitment.

Vinay will be supported by three colleagues to begin with but Matt said that number is likely to grow to around a dozen by the end of the year.