It Contractor Demand

IT professionals revealed as the most in-demand workers last year

IT professionals were the most sought after workers in 2018, with new insight showing that the demand for these individuals increased by 28% year-on-year.

The recruitment body behind the research, APSCo, that partnered on the project with data publisher, Vacancysoft, said the growing need for highly skilled IT workers can be attributed to the huge focus businesses across all sectors have placed on digitalisation and digital security.

This theory is backed up by further studies from research company, Gartner, that revealed the level of investment in cybersecurity in 2018 was $114bn, with spending projected to reach $124bn this year.

It is also said the sharp rise in the need for IT professionals in 2018 resulted from the rapid growth of the UK tech arena, which the 2018 Tech Nation Report said is expanding 2.6 times faster than the rest of the UK economy and is now worth £184 billion, up from £170 billion in 2016.

IT vacancies led the way in what was a strong start to 2018 in the demand for professionals overall, which grew by 24% across the year. Incidentally, this was in keeping with predictions made in a PwC report, in which two in three UK business leaders said they intended to increase their headcount.

Quarter 1 and Quarter 2 experienced the strongest growth, with the number of vacancies posted rising by 35% and 41% respectively. As expected, the demand for talent across-the-board dropped off significantly towards the end of 2018 to as low as 6%, which APSCo has put down to Brexit uncertainty impacting hiring decisions and ‘wait and see’ attitudes. The recruitment body’s Chief Executive, Ann Swain, elaborated:

“The latter months of 2018 saw many companies put the brakes on hiring due to Brexit uncertainty, however, our conversations with members reveal that while caution is the order of the day, most are optimistic that the professional recruitment market will remain as resilient as ever throughout 2019.”

Despite Brexit uncertainty, further growth is expected this year, particularly in the North West of the UK. APSCo said the region has benefitted from ‘Northshoring’ – the practice of companies based in the South relocating to areas further North where costs are cheaper.

Last year, aside from London, that unsurprisingly experienced the highest number of vacancies in the UK, the North West and East Midlands performed particularly well, with the demand for talent growing by 25% and 18% respectively.

With Channel 4 and HMRC already announcing moves to Leeds, the number of opportunities for professionals located in areas away from London could increase, said James Chaplin, CEO of Vacancysoft:

“Our data certainly paints an optimistic picture of the professional jobs market with impressive growth across not only several sectors, but also regions outside of the Capital.”

Like APSCo’s chief, Mr Chaplin did say he expects Brexit to impact vacancy levels as the UK gears up to leave the European Union. He did stress, however, that he has “no doubt that several sectors will continue to perform exceptionally well” in addition to predicting that “professionals with niche skills sets” in cybercrime will be in “acute demand.”

The financial services sector advertised the highest number of vacancies in 2018, with Barclays Bank topping the list with 3902 roles – reportedly a 16% increase year-on-year. Meanwhile, HSBC needed 3497 vacancies filling, which represented an 11% rise year-on-year. It was said that on closer inspection, a “substantial” number of these roles were technology related. This, in particular, reflects comments made early last year by Barclays CEO, Tim Throsby, who said: “the digitalisation of the markets is a key priority for us in order to provide the best service for our clients and shareholders.”

Further investment in infrastructure that requires highly-skilled IT professionals will be welcomed by contractors, who right now are understandably concerned about the arrival of further IR35 reform next April.

When focusing on the IT landscape after the introduction of private sector IR35 changes, the thousands of companies that rely on these workers are being urged to prepare for reform immediately otherwise risk not being able to attract these workers going forward.

This was a sentiment that has been shared by APSCo’s Ann Swain previously, who called on these firms to “upskill their workforces to be able to make appropriate status determinations and to get their internal processes and IT systems in order, to cope with the new rules.”


  • Glenn says:

    Every ad I have seen that states the role is within IR35 also says that the contractor must work via an umbrella company But these companies then charge employers NIC even though the contractors are effectively employees of the umbrella company and also do not receive normal employee benefits There is no logic in any of this and HMRC should stop the way umbrella companies operate Also why have these third parties anyway within an avoidance set up ? The client should operate PAYE if the contractor must be seen as an employee under IR35.

  • Bob says:

    The press are always telling us about the demand for IT workers and the skills shortage. But wages for UK IT workers have been stagnant for 10 years. If there was actually a shortage, then salaries would have increased, whereas in real terms vs inflation they have actually gone down.

    • Glenn says:

      You only have to look at large government projects that are awarded to global companies who then import large numbers of overseas IT workers via ‘Inter-company transfers’ on lower rates than native British workers to see the reason for low rates for the rest of us. Also note these people always come from outside the EU where we can control numbers if we wanted to

  • bob says:

    sorry for multipost, dunno what happened there!

  • Mike says:

    I’ve had an entire career as a contractor and throughout most of it I have seen the same old people like Ann Swain constantly going on about skills shortages and massive IT demand even when half the IT contract work force are on the bench. It may be true that the big corporations are recruiting heavily for IT people – from India. Up until ten years ago almost all of my work was for the big corporations until they became flooded with Indians and they no longer wanted me – every single one of them. I spent most of the more recent years finding it harder and harder to find work and noticed that even the tiny companies I worked for also were ‘flooded’ with Indians.

    It’s quite astonishing how many of them have been allowed in to suppress wages and in my opinion a treasonous act by both Labour and Tory governments. The same of course has been done to other groups of people by importing mass cheap labour from Eastern Europe which is what lead to Brexit. People are tied of fighting half the world for a job that pays a wage that you can’t live on. Astonishing really that our leaders are so brazen that they think it’s ok to allow millions of foreigners in to undercut their own people.

    Love to see an old fashioned revolution in this country, might get my wish if this carries on for many more years.

  • Glenn says:

    Very well said Mike. No other country that cares for its native workers would allow large areas of work to be given away to Indian IT staff. Companies say they cannot get the skills but then have a deliberate policy to bring these people to the UK (without the same level of vetting applied to native British workers) and pay them at lower rates. This has nothing to do with skills shortages and everything to do with company profit.

    • Mike says:

      It gets worse; at the same time they are hounding the sh1t out of British people with draconian legislation to take more and more tax frrom them, many of the Indians pay no tax at all if they’re not over here for long enough. From personal experience though the first thing they do is book an appointment with the doctor.

      You couldn’t make up the treason that is going on. Hanging’s too good for our politicians. Wish more people weren’t afraid to speak up and tell their politicians what they think and then things might change.

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