After a tough year, businesses are hiring again – and particularly in the technology sector, job seekers are fast becoming spoilt for choice.
Software developers, programmers, cybersecurity experts, IT support specialists: in the EU, technology job offers are multiplying at pace, according to a new report released by CompTIA (the Computing Technology Industry Association).
Spanning ten European countries – Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Spain – CompTIA's latest research finds that employers posted nearly 900,000 ads for new tech roles in the first quarter of 2021, with Germany alone accounting for more than 46% of all vacancies.
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From €36,000 ($43,000) entry-level jobs to €90,000 ($107,000) more senior positions, the roles advertised are valuable opportunities after a year marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, during which hiring slowed or ceased altogether. The total number of vacancies, in fact, constitutes a 40% jump compared to the third quarter of 2020.
With growth rates now slowly returning to normal levels, CompTIA's report shows that business leaders are keen to expand their staff – and specifically, their tech-savvy workforce. Openings for technology positions represent on average 13% of total hiring advertisements, reaching as high as 36% in some countries like Poland.
This is largely due to the after-effects of the pandemic, which has forced companies across Europe to fast-forward their plans to embrace a digital-first approach.
"Overnight, businesses had to invest in digital infrastructure to survive," Graham Hunter, CompTIA's vice president for workforce development, tells ZDNet. "They have been cautious about making those investments in the past. But as the pandemic came along, those investments that were tabled and not carried through have been forced. Businesses realized that now is the time to invest for the future."
Tech jobs that are currently advertised are not limited to the tech industry. Top hiring sectors include manufacturing, finance and insurance, information and communication, or administrative and support services, indicating that the need for digital tools concerns just about every industry.
In the public sector, too, digital transformation has accelerated, with healthcare services, education and local councils all going through rapid digitization. But as Hunter explains, digital transformation isn't only about investing in cutting-edge technologies; it also requires hiring human talent.
One of the most tangible illustrations of that is the proliferation of cybersecurity incidents that has taken place since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It's almost daily that people are having files locked and ransoms being paid," says Hunter. "This is why we are seeing a lot of cybersecurity skills in demand – cybersecurity is the number-one priority."
To a large extent, employers are after candidates with a strong technical background. Featuring among the leading technical skills cited in tech job postings, CompTIA found Office and spreadsheets, programming, SQL and Java, or web programming and front-end design.
Candidates are often expected to be well-rounded, and be able to adapt to new platforms, new coding languages, new hardware and devices and even new combinations of technology building blocks like IoT, in line with the ever-expanding nature of innovation.
But these requirements are increasingly driving a gap with the skills that candidates can offer. "The acceleration of innovation means that after spending four years in university, your skills are obsolete," says Hunter. "Things are changing so quickly that it's driving a mismatch between skills."
In other words, employers are struggling to find the right candidates to fill roles that they are offering – to such an extent that many now report that the lack of available talent is becoming a number-one concern as they look to the future.
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This is due, to an extent, to a lack of supply of talent that can only be resolved by encouraging workers to take up courses, certifications and bootcamps to refresh their skills.
But employers also have a responsibility, according to Hunter. Instead of seeking candidates that are already fully proficient, business leaders should be investing in candidates from an early stage, such as through apprenticeships or graduate schemes, to internally develop an employee base that is up to speed with the latest tech advancements.
What's more: training the existing workforce should also be a priority for employers. "Upskilling existing employees is key," says Hunter. "It's about promoting lifelong learning. People in the tech industry are agile, they can change and adapt, and they can do this from a learning perspective as well."
In other words, investing in talent doesn't only mean opening new jobs with an ever-longer list of required skills. So while prospective workers have a lot to gain from self-learning to further flesh out their CVs, the onus is also on businesses leaders to expand the pool of talent that they are recruiting for – as well as ensuring that their employees are appropriately skilled throughout their careers.