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What a culture of contractors means for the future of IT

Geoff Shepherd, managing director of iSource Group

Talk of an IT skills gap is old hat and it’s fair to say that the industry has done little to address it. The gap is indeed widening, while demand is ever increasing. The marketing spin of ‘Digital Cities’ (albeit with a dearth of digital people) continues unaffected, but then we all know this.  The concern is that all of this has given way to the rise of IT contracting as a career.

It’s an odd situation that we’ve collectively allowed to happen. Home-grown skills are in scarce supply. Immigration rules limit the ability to import skills and marketplace salaries are prohibitively expensive.

SMEs in particular are often priced out of the candidate market. In fact, we now find ourselves operating in the age of the professional career contractor, where the profound scarcity of talent allows people to surrender traditional job security in exchange for an increasingly premium day rate, safe in the knowledge that market conditions will always offer them another opportunity.

The problem is particularly acute for those organisations that do not have deep corporate pockets. Salaries are rocketing well beyond the reach of many SMEs. Those smaller businesses who do train their own staff or manage to snag a good IT recruit often find their employees lured away to ‘corporate land’ with considerable pay hikes on offer. It’s a real barrier to growth for SME’s; many simply cannot find or retain the people they need in order to grow the business.

So, how did we get here and how do we get out?

I think that there was an element of us all sleep walking into it over a long period of time. There’s been a collective political, academic and industry failure to do anything meaningful.

It’s easy to point a finger at the education sector, and in some ways it’s a sensible direction in which to do so, but equally, it’s a shared problem. It’s long overdue for industry to work hand-in-hand with schools, not just universities and colleges, to help shape and create a pipeline of work-ready, skilled talent. Even in Higher Education there’s still an over-emphasis on softer conventional subjects and perhaps not enough on coding or other skills that are needed in our modern workforce.

With a trend that is unlikely to change anytime soon, what does the future hold for recruitment and how can clients both large and small ensure that they are able to attract and retain the best talent that the industry has to offer?

The contractor culture isn’t ideal but there is also no sign of it slowing down, as more and more IT professionals choose this as a career option.

In some ways this situation is a good market-cleansing instrument, as it means that the professional recruitment companies who know the candidate’s market, as opposed to the ubiquitous job-board trawlers, are able to benefit from their closer understanding of both candidate and client. This causes the ‘CV shifting’ end of the recruitment market to diminish in both stature and number.

More time, more effort and more thought needs to go into each and every vacancy and this can only be to the benefit of organisations that rely on recruitment agencies, giving them further confidence that they are getting what they pay for.

iSource Group provides recruitment support for some of the largest IT and procurement employers in the UK. 

Picture courtesy of Pixabay

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