UK sees spike in IT job advertisements as lockdown eases
The number of active job postings in the UK topped a million this week, according to the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC).
In particular, there has been a significant surge over the last month in job ads for IT professionals. Demand for web designers and developers skyrocketed 15.5%, compared to June.
“We’ve seen two years of digital transformation happening in the space of two weeks,” TechUK’s deputy chief executive Anthony Walker told the BBC.
“A lot of business leaders we’ve been talking to, and survey data, shows that digital will be more important to their business, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.”
The industry group says that British firms, both large and small, are now realising that digital skills are crucial to all parts of the business – including setting up e-commerce websites to sell goods online, improving international marketing efforts and optimising production processes.
The number of workers on UK company payrolls fell by 649,000 between March and June, while unemployment rose by 34,000 in April to reach 1.3 million, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
But according to the REC, in the week of 6-12 July, there were 106,000 new job adverts posted – 14,000 more postings than the week of 22-28 June.
However, millions are still looking for work, and companies say they’re being “flooded” with applications.
Alison Walford, 57, a freelance digital and IT project manager, says she’s had to completely transform her approach to finding work.
Ms Walford caught the coronavirus in March and spent 14 days recovering from the disease at Swindon Great Western Hospital. Shortly after she returned home, she discovered that she had lost the majority of her paid work.
“I’ve been looking at job adverts, but I’m finding that for every job advertised, there are many more applicants than there otherwise would have been,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“I’m in my late 50s, and I wasn’t really expecting to have to re-skill or develop new skills in order to make sure I can find enough work.”
Unfortunately, she is not earning enough to live on at the moment, and is having to draw on her pension to make ends meet.
Difficulties filling new roles
Roina Hadi, Head of Talent at health tech company iPLATO, said that people hunting for work are casting their net further than they would normally, in the hopes of finding employment.
“We are receiving a huge amount of applications when jobs are posted,” she said.
“But unfortunately we are finding 60% [of applicants] are not suitable candidates and are seemingly applying for any role.”
She says the flood of applications has made it harder and more time consuming for already strained businesses to find appropriate candidates to fill new roles.
The UK already has a serious skill shortage when it comes to IT – latest data from the Open University shows half of employers struggle to attract talent with the right IT skills.
Large tech firms IBM and SAP previously predicted that by 2020, there would be one million unfilled jobs in the IT sector, because people aren’t being trained with the skills to take on these jobs.
The problem is such a big one that businesses themselves are now trying to narrow the skills gap, rather than relying on colleges and universities.
“Many companies are making online training courses available to people who are interested in working in these kinds of roles, to help them get to the point where they can be useful and employable,” said Mr Walker.
And in April, the Department for Education launched the online platform “The Skills Toolkit”, offering people access to free, high-quality digital and numeracy courses to help build up their skills, progress in work and boost their job prospects.
However, not enough people know that these free online courses are available, so TechUK is working with the government and various organisations including the Institute of Coding to see how best to inform the general public and give people the confidence to give digital skills training a try.
“It matters for the businesses…it matters for individuals who want good jobs and good prospects, and it matters for the economy as a whole, because this kind of digital investment and digital adoption by businesses is going to drive economic growth and recovery post coronavirus crisis,” stressed Mr Walker.
“There’s more to do to help raise awareness that digital skills are really valuable in the labour market. Better signposting is needed to help people know where to start.”