For IT recruiters, the pursuit of talent is relentless. It’s a never-ending game of cat and mouse as IT industries are growing whilst supply is drastically limited.
The disparity between high-end tech roles and the talent available to fit these roles is a worry to employers. According to the annual CIO report from global research company Gartner (Taming the Digital Dragon: The 2014 CIO Agenda) “Fifty-one percent of CIOs are concerned that the digital torrent is coming faster than they can cope, and 42% don’t feel they have the right skills and capabilities in place to face this future.”
According to a report from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, this year alone, we have witnessed the sharpest drop of permanent staff availability for over 16 years. Contract staff has also deteriorated its most acute since 1997.
A recent report by PwC revealed that one in every four UK businesses plan to increase their staffing numbers by 5% over the next year. 20% plan to increase by 8% and one-fifth plan to increase by more than 8%. Jon Andrews, HR consulting leader at PwC, said “With two thirds of UK CEOs planning to hire more people in the next 12 months competition for talent will be intense. People with tech-based skills, such as cloud computing, mobile technology and data analytics, will be in strong demand but this is also the area with the biggest skills shortage.”
More recently, the EU commission has launched a ‘Grand Coalition’ to tackle the impending skills shortages. Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes spoke to delegates at the conference in Brussels and said “So we agree that unemployment in Europe is unacceptably high and at the same time unfilled vacancies in ICT are growing. We also acknowledge that our competitiveness as a region is under threat if we’re short of digitally skilled people. We cannot go on this way. Doing nothing is not an option: and that is why we are here today. Not to talk and analyse but to decide, commit and act.” The EU has also predicted that by next year, as many as 900,000 vacancies will be unfilled.
The evidence of the ‘skills shortage’ is overwhelming.
Never has there been a time in history where a demand for IT skills was critically so desperate.
There are many sectors within IT that are suffering due to the shortages. We decided to conduct our own research and interviewed industry experts to determine what they think are the five most sought after skill-sets right now.
The top of the list is standard developments skills. There has never been a time when skills such as ASP, JAVA, Ruby, Agile and Dot.Net were so much in demand. Although these skills are considered as ‘classic’ – they are highly sought after. The implementation, creation and maintenance of the ‘software release life cycle’ are a long process. And, after release there are updates, bug prevention and fixing to consider; so it is an ongoing operation until the software is replaced or becomes obsolete. With IT, literally exploding in recent years, it’s hardly surprising that the need for developers is so prevalent. According to Managing Director Richard Newton of TeckChek “With the development trend, there are Dot .Net developers who are very, very difficult to source. There are probably three decent jobs for every .Net Developer you will find.”
Secondly, roles within the mobile application sector are growing exponentially an alarming rate. Considering that global Smartphone users now exceed 1.75 billion and nearly 20% of all web traffic in 2013 was on a mobile device, finding talent within this sector is almost becoming a desperate situation. Operations Director Huw Price and Team Lead Keith Watt from CPS Group said “One of the key demands we’re seeing at the moment is any skills around android and iOS development. A lot of companies are looking to improve their online presence and with mobile technologies. They are trying to either stay ahead of the competition or catch up with the competitors.”
Richard Newton also agreed that a critical shortage that clients were noticing was “Anything to do with Smartphone’s, which is a driver in the market and the emerging technologies of Smartphones and PC based applications.” Clearly the demand for these roles will only increase as more people start to use devices, connectivity becomes more widely spread and there is a higher demand for responsive design skills, such as HTML5 and Python.
Huw and Keith added “Anything around iOS development and general UIX people are in shortage. Because there’s not a huge amount of these guys available on the market, just the cost of hiring these people is pretty expensive and a lot of them are fairly junior.”
“For example, you’ve got someone with two years experience out of university who can command £350 a day on a contract basis because they’ve moved into the right sort of company, working with the latest technology around android and iOS development.”
“As a result, their salary expectations are really being driven up within those spaces. The impact for the end-client is they have a very small talent pool of candidates. It’s very rare you will find highly qualified people looking for permanent work. Most of them are looking for contract, which doubles their earnings. But, because there’s so few of them, the cost of them just goes up exponentially. If a client needs a project completing and its essential work, they have to pay through-the-nose for these people.”
Thirdly skill-sets around business intelligence are in heightened demand. Big Data technology allows businesses to exploit their data. Business intelligence systems allow for masses of information to be extracted, structured and standardized, transforming how businesses utilise their data. The benefits for organisations are plentiful including savings, income generation and scope for analysis to produce market trends. Huw Price and Keith Watt said “One area is business intelligence: SQL Servers; SSRS, SSAS and the oracle side of things. That’s another area which isn’t a candidate-rich market. Obviously, with companies looking to utilise their data better than they have been in the past, we are noticing that there is a rise in vacancies in those areas and not enough quality staff available in that sort of space.”
Fourthly, networking and infrastructure, such as BYOD, bandwidth group, Cloud, data storage and network capacity security are just a few of the sectors that are struggling. CPS Group said “Looking more at infrastructure, I would say it’s difficult to find storage and platform specialists. Also, anyone with good knowledge of Amazon Web Services, we feel will be a growing technology over the next 12-18 months. It already is, but it’s really accelerating now. The AWS is almost like the M-ware when it first arrived. It’s very cheap. It’s basically a web. You can put any server into the cloud onto an AWS platform, so it’s very much a cheaper solution and something that is very easy to use for the end-client; you can do what you want with it. That’s why it’s growing so much.”
Finally, we believe that project management skills are in massive demand and need to certainly not be overlooked when recruiting in the above IT sectors. You could, hypothetically have the best IT staff there is, but it’s pointless without the talent equipped with the right PM skills to plan and deliver the projects. Phillip Pitt, Head of Business Development at Cooper Lomaz said “Over the past 12 months alone, we have seen a 65% increase in project management roles. Worryingly, there isn’t enough talent out there with the skills to match, making these jobs very difficult to fill.”
The exponential growth of technology in recent years has happened that quickly, resulting in candidates with the necessary skills being somewhat a rare breed. It’s as simple as that. We are currently witnessing a global explosion of jobs in all technological fields which can’t be filled.
IT Recruiters at the ‘fashion end’ of the industry have to constantly adapt due to the invariable advances and developments in their industries. Whatever specific IT field they are recruiting for will undoubtedly witness huge change. They all are.
Many recruiters and employers may see this as an exciting concept, as the skills of today will be dated in five years; and there will by then be more qualified and skilled candidates as universities open up their potentials and offer degrees that correlate with the demands. But, the truth is that the issue of the IT skills gap won’t ever be solved whilst there are emerging technologies developing faster than the skills can be learned.
For the life of the IT recruiter, they too will be windswept with the technological evolutions. They will have to learn the ins and outs of emerging technologies, which may surpass their understanding, unless they themselves are highly articulate and have a deep grasp of the industries in which they are recruiting.
Recruiters cannot afford to become complacent, even if this current skills gap shows signs of narrowing at any point, as undoubtedly, another skills gap will follow.
Employers and recruiters need to be conscious of the fact that we are in a talent war. The 5 most sought after IT skill-sets right now need to be a major consideration for employers. They need to be forward thinking in their hiring strategy and consider the next influx of talent they will need to prepare for.