Bev White

My name is Bev White and I am the CEO of Harvey Nash Group, a $1bn global technology recruitment, IT solutions and leadership services group with 36 offices across the USA, Europe and Asia

Tech demand a bright spot amidst wider jobs gloom

It’s been a challenging week for the UK economy. ONS employment figures released on Tuesday make sober reading – with 220,000 people falling off payrolls between April and June. Coupled with confirmation the following day that the UK is now officially in recession after two quarters of negative growth – including a 20.4% drop in GDP in Q2. In the words of Chancellor Rishi Sunak, “hard times are here”.

However, as difficult as the outlook may be, there are bright spots too. Overall, vacancies have begun to rise again from their record lows in April-June as those sectors that have been less hit by the crisis such as Pharma, Logistics, Healthcare and Tech continue to create jobs.

In particular, tech demand is an area of growth. After all, it has been tech that ‘kept the lights on’ as businesses moved to remote working and consumers relied more than ever on digital services from their homes during lockdown.

The tech sector has been more insulated from the impact of Covid-19 than most other parts of the business community. That isn’t to say there hasn’t been an impact though. In recruitment terms, what we saw in the first months of the crisis was a significant softening in demand for permanent roles. Instead, companies shifted more to temporary and contract roles which enabled them to keep those all-important digital projects moving without committing them long term.

Over the last couple of months however we have seen permanent hiring increasing again alongside contract roles. In addition to immediate digital fixes to enable remote working and connectivity, broader technology transformation projects are picking up again as companies look to future proof their business. Software developers, helpdesk advisors, cloud architects, cyber security specialists – all of these are sought after.

The outlook for jobs in tech therefore looks solid. Our research shows that the majority of the UK’s tech leaders are either increasing or retaining their staff over the year ahead. Data from the 2020 Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey, which will be launched next month, shows that 82% of IT leaders in the UK expect their technology headcount to increase or stay the same. Skills that are in most demand are cyber security, architecture, organisational change, and cloud.

The UK’s tech leaders are also hiring across the country, with more IT leaders in the North West, in technology hubs such as Manchester, planning to increase their technology headcount over the next year than in London. Both of these cities expect to recruit for more technology roles than the UK average.

Another positive aspect – both for companies and candidates – is that the new, more distributed model of working that Covid-19 has brought about means there is actually a wider pool of talent to consider and positions to apply for. It matters much less now where someone is physically based. This may help with the ‘levelling up’ agenda and be positive for areas such as the Northern Powerhouse.

If this all sounds like good news for tech professionals looking for a new role, there are some caveats. We are finding that employers are asking for bigger shortlists of candidates to consider, given that there is more talent now generally available. In difficult economic times, they want to make absolutely sure they are investing in the best possible person for the job. Competition for roles is tough. This also means that candidates really have to prepare well for any application and interview. It is essential to do your homework, show that you really know and understand the company, and that you have the commitment and drive they are looking for. Flexibility is also important. If you were looking for a permanent role, perhaps consider a contract position too; be open-minded about what sector you want to work in.

Tech has created over a quarter of a million jobs in the UK over the last three years. With tech a key enabler to pull businesses through the crisis and pivot to new opportunities, demand for tech professionals will create ongoing recruitment needs and employment opportunities.

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