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.”